This Memorial Day, I am reminded of Mark Learner, a Viet Nam veteran I met about 15 years ago when I was doing a series of interviews with people living with various stages of Multiple Sclerosis. Mark had just turned 30 when he was diagnosed with progressive MS. Eighty percent blind and numb over most of his body,

Mark says MS put him on the most intense spiritual journey he could imagine. The day of the interview marked 12 years that Mark had not only lived with MS, but also started two corporations, written three books and spent most of his days counseling people with serious illnesses and handicaps. I share a bit of that interview with you today:

Mark’s years fighting in Viet Nam taught him to feel the intensity of living in the moment. He stopped believing in logical thinking and found a way to get past the ego-based reality of most human beings by going beyond thoughts to a place he calls the zero point. He values life — not thought. Mark helps people create habits so they don’t have to think.

Mark then led me through a positive/negative self-image exercise that I still use with my clients today. He asked me to think of the worst thing that ever happened to me and to capture the experience in a word. I thought PANIC. Mark had me imagine the physical sensations of panic and give the self that felt that way a name — I chose “Ditzel.”

Next, Mark led me to do the opposite. I concentrated on the best thing that had happened to me and feelings related to that. I thought of EUPHORIA, imagined feeling a blissful peace, and named the self with those feelings “Darling.”

Mark taught me how to automatically connect to Darling, my positive self, by feeling the pulse on the side of my neck and repeating, “I am darling…” According to Mark, by doing that nightly before going to sleep, while concentrating on images of myself when I felt “darling,” my positive responses would become automatic. Mark’s names for his negative and zero point selves were “Terrible” and “Great.”

Mark explained that a reality of life is that when you’re faced with death, your ego (your thoughts) becomes insignificant

“The Vets know what I mean,” Mark said, “Where life is more important than any thought. It’s the zero point. If you return importance to your zero point, you can trust yourself and connect to your resources.
It’s the wisdom of the body without the film of the mind.
If a combat vet comes from a dysfunctional family, he doesn’t see the family film the instant a shot is fired. He sees the zero point and connects to the best he or she has to give.”

It is with the deepest respect for our Veterans who have given their lives and for those who face the shots and the zero point every day that I say thank you for your bravery and willingness to give the ultimate sacrifice.

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  1. Cindy says:

    Wow. Thank you for this article. Metaphorically I feel like I am where he was – at my zero point. I am going to try his technique and see if I can get my thoughts out of the way and connect to the best I have to give.

  2. Tracy says:

    I am forever indebted to you for this inofrmtaoin.

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