The End of Back Pain (As You Know It) eBook Coming Soon!

In the late 1990’s I started writing a book on the causes and remedies of a type of back pain that affects upwards of 80% of people who suffer from the condition. This most common type of back pain is easy to understand and with patience and consistent effort, it can resolve. It’s taken me nearly two decades, but I’m now back at my computer committed to finally finishing the eBook. If you or anyone you know suffers from chronic low back pain, you’ll want to read and share this post. The following is an excerpt from the eBook that tells the story of my back pain history.

My Back Pain History
I believe it imperative to tell you about my own back pain experiences so you can appreciate and trust that my knowledge of this subject runs deeper than what is possible to learn through books and clinical practice alone.

My back has hurt countless times, sometimes very intensely. Just a few years before colleagues and I developed this program, my back often hurt chronically, for months and even years at a time. I experienced much anguish and frustration as a result. If you have a long standing back condition, be assured I have compassion for what you’re going through, and I want you to feel better as soon as possible. Life’s too short to spend years hurting and not knowing why, or worse yet, what to do about it.

I was 20 years old and into my 5th week of Marine Corps Officer’s Candidate School when I first experienced low back pain. One day our training involved repeatedly bending and lifting other candidates onto our backs and then hustling across an open, pock-marked mine field. That activity heralded the beginning my back issues. This first, intense, short-lived bout of back pain lasted for only about two weeks.

Before I knew it, half-a-dozen years intervened, and I experienced more back pain of a similar nature. Despite the pain, I continued to exercise. I remember lifting weights and practicing Taekwondo karate, and although I tried to discover a pattern, I couldn’t seem to attribute my back pain to any particular activity. It seemed like it would just start for no reason; the causes remained unknown to me. Because of the seemingly random nature of the problem, when it hurt badly, it felt out of control. I was at its mercy. The pain, coupled with my confusion, was maddening. At the time, I was in my middle 20’s and enjoyed being active. I needed to work too, but at least two or three times a year, sometimes for a couple of months at a time, I was totally out of commission because of my pain.

It was for this reason and the fact that I was always injuring myself in Taekwondo, that I developed an interest in physical therapy. I wanted to learn how to take care of my body so I would not have to suffer from so much pain all the time.

Very soon after starting physical therapy school I injured my back again. I was 27 years old. This particular incident, I hurt myself while lifting weights. I hurt it “leg pressing” more weight than was reasonable for a person of my size and strength. The pain came on slowly but intensely. After a tough two weeks, the pain diminished but did not cease again for another year and a half.

Of course, as part of my physical therapy education, I was taught many methods and modalities designed to alleviate back pain; nothing I tried seemed to help, however. In fact, most of my attempts at relieving the pain made it worse. At that time, I had no understanding of the real causes or remedies of my pain. Both of my parents had had significant back pain histories; maybe it was genetic? Looking back, I remember feeling disheartened and wondering if I was doomed to live with this pain for the rest of my life.

Once I graduated, the hurting slowly and unaccountably subsided. I had finally recovered from that long episode of back pain. You would think that I should have regarded that favorable circumstance positively. I did not. Because I did not yet understand what the causes or the cures of my pain were, I reasoned that it was only a matter of time before I’d injure my back again. Furthermore, working as a physical therapist and not possessing the requisite knowledge to help most back pain patients was a source of great anxiety for me, the only solace was that most every other medical professional I knew was as equally perplexed as I was.

For these reasons, I was compelled to learn more about this puzzling condition. I read many books and took a lot of professional continuing education on the subject. After a particularly disappointing weekend class on another type of back pain therapy (read: bogus!) my frustration peaked and I honestly considered closing my practice and changing professions. But as providence would have it, my quest for answers to the questions of back pathology, diagnosis, and treatment was fulfilled. In January of 1996, I met my teacher, Omer Matthijs, DSc., PT, MOMT, and my orthopedic education took off under his tutelage.

Omer taught me to see the spine as a system of interdependent parts which are subject to an age-related process of degeneration. As the spine ages, certain parts may wear excessively and therefore, sometimes cause pain. If one understands the process, and then acts to mitigate the stresses that might exacerbate or accelerate it, the condition can stabilize and more often than not, heal and feel better. Under Omer guidance, I started to connect the dots between the causes of particular back pain conditions and the subsequent cures. After Omer’s tutelage and following his advice, over a year passed in which I felt no back pain.

It was the spring of 1997. I was 36 years old. One morning as I was getting ready for work, I bent down to pick up my cat’s food dish when I felt a little “twinge” in my back. Two hours later I could not stand up straight and was in a lot of pain. Although the pain was familiar, there was something different about this episode. This time, for the first time, I understood what was going on in my back. This time I was not afraid. Instead, I was inquisitive, wondering how the course of this incident would respond to my new informed treatment approach.

May 6th, 2016. Squating 225 Pounds!

I went to work that day, and aside from strictly applying the movement patterns that I will teach you, I didn’t change a thing. I even decided to go out for a short two-mile jog the day after my pain started. Astonishingly, especially to me, within four days I was completely pain-free again!

Because of what I’ve learned, and how I apply this knowledge in my own life, my back pain episodes have decreased from about 3 per year to maybe one minor bout every two or more years. The way my back feels now (strong, stable, no pain), compared to what it’s felt like in the past (weak, touchy and painful), represents a triumph over a condition that disables more people in the industrial world than any other.

Had it not been for this approach, you might still include me with those unfortunate many who continue to suffer. And as for the emotional anguish I experienced in the past, well, I recognize that on rare occasions I might feel a little back discomfort, but I also know its source, how to treat it well, and that it won’t last. As a result, I have no fear and therefore no emotional distress. This peace of mind and sense of control are the real jewels hidden within this approach.

No one can prevent every episode of back pain. That is not what this program promises. What it does say, however, is that if one acquaints oneself with the causes and cures of back pain, and, skillfully applies the proposed treatment regimen, your experience with this condition should not get worse (as is currently the norm for chronic back pain sufferers through the age of 60). But rather, your situation can improve significantly, as measured by your pain’s intensity and duration, and the frequency of occurrences. If you don’t have an extreme pathology (see RED FLAGS), and put forth the necessary effort, it is not hyperbole to suggest that this program can teach you how to create the causes for healing whereby you will eventually develop a healthy, fit, and pain-free back again.

I’ve ended my back pain, and thankfully, I can now say that my patients recover faster, more completely, and with fewer reoccurrences as well; that’s the real validating proof of the efficacy of this program.

If you would like to receive periodic excerpts and updates on the progress of this eBook, please subscribe to this blog and email me at Put “End Back Pain” in the subject line.

Doing Leads to Being

Ever been to a social gathering or a meeting and introduce yourself this way, “Hi, I’m Mark, I’m a _________.’ Funny how we identify ourselves with what we do. It makes sense. I’m not quibbling about it. But it’s also strange if you think about it. A Noun (being), arises out of a Verb (doing).

For example, if I start smoking, at some point, I become a smoker. In the case of smoking, it’s hard to say exactly when that transformation happens. Are there milestones that identify the shift? Once a person crosses an invisible line it is inevitable, smoking-1026559_960_720the consequences of the actions (smoking) start to emerge. Smelly breath, morning cough, higher blood pressure, lower blood oxygen, possibly even cancer can be effects of smoking. Interestingly, the activating force behind these results begins to fade once a person stops smoking. Changing the actions (not smoking) then attracts different results–better overall health. Also too, the now ex-smoker will eventually stop identifying him or herself as a smoker. The label (the noun) evaporates away as well.

As you know, I’m in the business of trying to inspire people to start meditating. I do this because the same potentiating force that turns doing into being is at play here too. If you start to meditate, you will initiate actions that lead to predictably positive results. Studies show that people who meditate are happier and healthier. The enhanced awareness that goes with a skillful meditation practice also improves relationships at work and home. Simply put, meditators learn skills and perspectives that enable them to suffer less and their life gets easier.

EVERYONE WANTS THE EFFECTS OF MEDITATION. But to my great dismay, less than one percent of people will do what it takes to achieve those positive results. People get so totally lost in the world that they won’t prioritize the one activity that will shift things for them.

One of my meditation teachers, John Yates, PhD., (Culadasa), wrote a book, The Mind Illuminated, that details the ten stages of meditative development. His formulation teaches that a person masters stage one as soon as they develop a consistent practice. If you are part of the one percent and are interested in cultivating the positive results that come with the activity of meditating, find my free guide on starting a practice. I’ve attached a PDF to this blog. Click the link at the end of this paragraph. And please, share it with your friends too. Begin-at-the-Beginning-M1. This PDF is a part of a more comprehensive 6-module online course on learning meditation and mindfulness for stress relief. If you feel inspired, you’re invited to check out that resource as well.

Remember, Being arises out of the Doing, and, when Doing changes, so does Being. Become a meditator. Then, reap the rewards!


In my mind, the word “ritual” conjures religious overtones. Today, I choose to use it in a much more mundane way. Here, let ritual mean any activity you engage in that captures your attention on a daily basis. I’m talking about ingrained habits, like walking the dog in the morning, watching TV after work, reading the Huffington Post at lunch (me), or posting on FaceBook after putting the kids to bed. We all have rituals we devote precious allotments of our time to every day.

Thoughts and feelings come to reflect whatever are our cumulative preoccupations. Capturing attention as they do, rituals lead to habitual emotional states. And, emotions felt habitually, eventually grow from states into temperaments. That is how mundane rituals mold us over time.

How the power of focus can create a positive spiral in your life
How the power of focus can create a positive spiral in your life

If you want life to be better, consider examining the effects of your mundane rituals. How are you ritually prioritizing your time each day? You may discover that some rituals are not serving you. Giving yourself over to them is costing rather than adding to your life.

If you decide you’d like to replace some of your rituals with a daily meditation practice, I’d like to offer you a quick lesson on how to get started. Just click here to gain access to a free webinar that explains the basics of how to use meditation for stress relief. On the webinar page, you’ll be able to watch a video and also receive free downloadable audio meditations. These are the same meditations that come with the first month of my 13-month guided program. Enjoy them. They’ll get you started.

My mission is to help as many people start a meditation and mindfulness practice as possible. The reason, I want the world to be a better place. So, if you’ve been thinking about taking up the ritual of meditation, go for it. I assure you, you’ll gain more happiness, mental and emotional clarity, compassion for yourself and others, more creativity, confidence, grounded sensitivity, peace, a sense of purpose, deeper sleep, and a better memory. If you want to improve as a parent, to be less impulsive and reliant on medicating substances and behaviors, to develop increased tolerance for distress, then begin to practice the ritual of meditation and mindfulness. IN ALL THESE WAYS AND MORE, THIS RITUAL WILL MOLD YOUR LIFE INTO SOMETHING WORTH CELEBRATING. I’m here to support you if you’d like to get started. Please share this newsletter with anyone you want to be happy.

As always, I wish you peace, health, and happiness.


Kids These Days!

“Kids these days.” How many times have you heard someone speak these words? How many times have you thought or spoken them yourself? We adults are perfect projection machines—chastising children for their behavior while at the same time forgetting it is a reflection of our own. Sure, each person is born with a unique temperament. Nevertheless, the environment of the home and culture radiates a powerfully influential force that molds them as well.Fighting Children

It might be helpful to think of children as biological recording devices. As such, they come into the world equipped to record and playback everything they experience. How do we imagine children learn to feel, sit with, and process their emotions? Clearly, it is through the process of modeling the emotional responses of those closest to them. Kids learn to speak kindly to others or not, depending on whether or not they hear kind words spoken to them. They may learn to respect others and their feelings, but only if their feelings receive respect first.

Likewise, by modeling the adults in their lives, children learn to become anxious, depressed, aggressive, distracted, impatient or disinterested. Unfortunately, most often our medical system treats these emotional issues as medical conditions. Pharmaceutical companies create pills for dampening all such “symptoms.” This misguided polypharmaceutical approach has no endgame. Lab testing our kids by pouring psychoactive chemicals into them is not the answer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not implying in all cases. Sure, in rare instances medicine can be a solution. What I’m saying is that pills won’t solve problems related to an unsafe environment, or the unavailability of tuned-in, emotionally skillful caregivers.

Happily, there’s another alternative to taking our children to the doctor. Humans never exhaust the capacity for growth and evolution. Meaning, grace is embedded in the practice of parenting. But, progressing along the path towards positive change requires pulling yourself out of your routine, and then, learning something new. Happy ChildrenIf you want to change your child’s behavior, start by working on yourself first. When you learn to experience your emotions more skillfully, speak more kindly and respectfully, be more compassionate, you’ll become perfectly enabled to model that skillfulness for your children. Then they’ll change.

Dr. Mark Pirtle is a meditation and mindfulness teacher who works in the recovery field. He contracts for Sierra Tucson, Miraval and is a faculty member of the Center for Integrative Medicine Fellowship Program at the University of Arizona. He teaches Skillfully Aware, a 6-week class that teaches the brain science of emotional literacy and the practice of meditation and mindfulness. For more information on classes go to

Intentional Families Thrive

Hi all,

Karen Putnam PhD., childhood development and parenting expert

Last week, I had the great pleasure of teaching alongside Karen Putnam PhD., a clinical psychologist who specializes in child development and parenting. We spoke to an engaged group of parents interested in implementing evidence-based strategies for promoting health and happiness within their families. Karen suggested something simple, but profound: being intentional and setting agreements for family behaviors. Simple yes, but who among us has been so proactive? As intentional as Lynda and I believe we are, we’ve not taken this step. That’s going to change! We’ve already begun to craft our own family agreements document and intend to enact it. Family harmony seems to stem from cooperation, kindness, skillful communication and emotional self-regulation. As a result, we wove these attributes into the fabric of our agreements. Our document is still a work in progress, but here’s what we have so far:

Pirtle Family Mission: to consciously wish for, and actively support, the health, happiness, growth, and success of each family member

In the spirit of this intention, we each endeavor to live by the following agreements:
1. We agree we each play a part in the well-functioning of the family
2. We agree to mindfully contribute to the well-functioning of the family, both emotionally and materially
3. We agree to give our full attention when communicating with one another
4. We agree to speak kindly and listen to each other without judgment or interruption
5. We agree to be honest with each other
6. We agree to acknowledge, accept, and tolerate the feelings of others
7. We agree to share our feelings openly, but in a respectful and kind way–we don’t dump or dramatize
8. We know we can ask for support, yet we each agree to be responsible for ourselves and our feelings
9. We agree to try to understand one another, and ask clarifying questions
10. In every way, we aim to be kind, cultivating empathy and compassion in all our relations

That’s it so far. Let me know what you think. I’m open for suggestions.

Also, for those of you who live in Tucson, Karen and I are going to teach a parenting workshop on Saturday, April 18th. Here’s a link to a flier for more information. To register, call: 520-981-9911. Given the positive response to the short talk we did last week, the workshop promises to be well-attended. Seats are limited. Hope to see you there.

If you don’t live in Tucson, but you’d like Karen and I to come to you, just contact us through the website. We’re eager to share simple techniques that may positively transform your family dynamics.

All the best,


Everything is Workable

Time Magazine Mindfulness

Hi all, I wanted to share an example of a back and forth Q&A between myself and a client with whom I’m working. He’s learning how to use meditation and mindfulness to heal anxiety and depression. Here’s our email string from today:

Time-Mindfulness-020314Client: “Hey Mark, good morning. I just wanted to ask you a question. So I am reading the book “The Path of Individual Liberation” by Chogyam Trungpa. He stresses the importance of focusing on nothing besides the out breath. So now when I meditate I get very anxious and doubt myself, thinking I am doing it wrong. I was thinking maybe it would be better for me not to read any more meditation books because they just mess with my mind, and stick to our practice. Do you have any advice/thoughts?”

Me: “Great question. Reading good Dharma is always a good idea, and Trungpa is good Dharma. If you have questions, just ask. Daily spiritual reading will take you far, so keep going! The advice to watch the out breath is given because it’s so subtle. It’s a “doorway to emptiness.” But the truth is, so are all meditation objects. It’s strange, but the more carefully you observe them, the more ambiguous they become. May I suggest that you do the same with what you think is your anxiety, depression, or a strong emotion or urge. Get in the habit of asking yourself, “what is this?” but don’t answer. Go looking for it. Is it a thought? If you think so, then ask: “what is a thought?” Keep probing. Is it a sensation? What’s that? There’s a saying, “everything dissolves in awareness.” And it’s true. You’ll never actually find the thing you’re looking for. All that exists is experience, which is ephemeral, fleeting, or as the Tibetans say, “empty”. Sit with that, and let me know what you find. Your practice will reveal the truth and that’s where you’ll find your healing.”

So if this type of back and forth support is what you want, and you’d like to learn to use meditation and mindfulness to change and or heal, join us. For a limited time, I’m running a holiday and New Year’s special. Until December 31st, receive $100 off both the Skillfully Aware Meditation Program for Stress Relief, and or the 6-Weeks to overcoming Stress, Pain, Strong Emotions and Urges (Tucson residents only). This offer is not available on the website. To take advantage of it, please call 520-981-9911, or email

Wishing you all healthiest and happiest holiday,


Meditation Changes Everything

Meditation will change you, and eventually, change the world. I got support for this hypothesis from a dear friend, and super accomplished and successful business woman Cristina Burgess. She turned me onto this video of self-described “skeptical” journalist Dan Harris waxing philosophically about the many benefits of meditation. Watch it. It’s compelling.

Mark at 48 years oldDid you watch it? If so, now’s the time to act! Go get yourself a teacher and start learning how to meditate. Your partner, spouse, kids, family, colleagues, community, nation and the world needs you to be at your best. YOU need YOU! And don’t worry, if you need support, I’m here to help. The important thing is that you get started. Let’s do this.

Wishing you health and happiness,


Baboons have something to teach us about kindness, health and happiness

Hi all, Lynda and I watched a National Geographic documentary last night on stress. If you consider watching it, be forewarned. It starts off pretty scary. It suggests that the way we live is killing us. Specifically, this documentary warns us against relentlessly driving ourselves, but also acknowleges that our cultural and social pecking orders also add a heavy burden of stress. It uses a troop of baboons to gather most of the data to support stress as a killer.

Snuggling-Baboons1If you watch it, I suggest watching it to the end. The message turns 180 degrees from how baboon culture conspires to make life a living hell for most all its members, to how, the troop  can change and live more peacefullly and therefore more healthfully. The moral is this: If baboons can learn to live with more kindness and compassion, and therefore live more happily and healthfully, so can we. If you’re looking to destress and find more peace in your life, we’re publishing an online course to help you do just that. We’re calling this course True North. It becomes available this Sunday, June 1st. If you’d like more information on True North, visit this link. Wishing you health and happinesss, and the same to your troop as well.


Commute with Compassion

Traffic Jam in Sao Paulo

Traffic Jam in Sao Paulo
Statistics show that the vast majority of Americans start their day by commuting an average of 10 miles to work. If you’re one of those people, have you ever noticed how the tensions involved in this wordless, frenetic migration have the ability to influence the emotional tone of the rest of your day? Consider trying this simple driving meditation as a way to get ahead of stress and set you up for a happy and productive day.

As you watch cars moving around you, imagine the other drivers are your friends, or members of your family: your sister or brother, mother or father, kids or grandparents. Imagine wishing them well on their journey, wherever it takes them. In that vein, consider allowing these friends and relatives the space to move in front of you if they want. Smile at them as they do. Wish them well in your heart as they pass. Try to imagine where each person might be going. If they happen to be driving unconsciously and frantically, offer them kindness and compassion rather than scorn. We’ll all been in a rush at one time or another. It’s no fun. They’re suffering. Wish that your kindness may wake up, bring them a bit of mindfulness and peace. Your offering of peace and kindness not only helps them, it will help you as well. Happy commuting.

Myths about addiction

Dr. Carl Hart, associate professor of psychology at Columbia University and the author of “High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society,” tells the truth. Addiction is a function of multiple factors, in essence, a  problem embedded in a bio-psycho-social system. Despite everything you’ve heard, addiction is not a disease. Steve Jobs had a disease. He did everything in his power to cure it, and despite all of his efforts, it killed him. Addiction is a conditioned pattern. Meaning, it runs by itself if a person remains unconscious to the process. That’s why an addiction can last a lifetime. But addictions don’t have to. I am aware of many hundreds of cases of people who were addicted to substances and behaviors who no longer are. Have you ever known someone who has quit smoking? I’m sure you have. After quitting, do they continue to refer to themselves as a smoker? I’m sure they do not. Conditioned patterns are by definition habits. But habits are not diseases. That definition simplifies addiction too much.

feet-19176_640Solving the problem of addiction requires investigation into the multiple causative factors–poverty, the relative support one receives through relationships, family of origin dynamics, education, employment status and perceived opportunities, mental health issues, etc. As you can see, addiction is a complex problem that will only be solved through a greater awareness and amelioration of these many drivers. Everyone wants to feel better, even addicts. But sometimes, getting high seems like the best and only option. As a society, we need stop doing two things. First, we must stop over simplifying addiction by telling addicts that they have a disease. Although right intended–care givers want to communicate the seriousness of the problem–the disease explanation often gives addicts the very thing they’re looking for when life gets tough, a good excuse to act out. Second, we need to stop treating addiction as if it were an isolated problem that exists solely within the addict him or herself. Rather what we need to do is educate everyone about the true nature of addictive thinking and behavior, and then provide access to more healthy options. The research says that when people are supported they start to feel better, which then results in less medicating behavior. Addicts mostly recover by themselves when they gain a broader perspective on themselves and their life. That’s why recovery starts by helping people reconstruct happy and productive lives.

Watch the informative video and let me know your thoughts:

Much love,