13: Mark Bertolini (Part 1) - How Mindfulness Can Add Up to An Extrodinary Life - Aetna


This week we’re talking to Mark Bertolini the CEO of Aetna. He is not your typical CEO. He is committed to practicing mindfulness in his personal life and professional life. He experienced circumstances that put him on a path to understand the benefits of mindfulness and holistic medicine. He has been living an extraordinary life and has changed an entire industry.

Because of his practice, he has affected millions of lives. This CEO, who was a former hippie, manages by walking around slowly and mindfully. He is actively engaged in the national dialogue of healthcare. He promotes measures that increase access, lower costs, and improves the quality of healthcare. He is a strong advocate for consumer centered healthcare.


Mark T. Bertolini Chairman and CEO of Aetna

Twitter: @mtbert

LinkedIn: Mark Bertolini



Learn more about BB&R & Achieving Optimal Health Conference by visiting BBRconsulting.us.

This podcast was sponsored by Aetna.

Learn how Aetna is working to build a healthier world by visiting www.aetnastory.com

Show Notes

  • [01:42] Mark shares his personal health journey. In college, he did transcendental meditation. It was his first introduction towards a meditative practice.

  • [02:21] Mark gave up meditation when he joined the business world. There was a point when his son got sick and took up Reiki. At the time, the cancer that his 16-year-old son had was incurable. Yet, he survived the T-cell gamma-delta lymphoma.

  • [04:06] While his son was recovering from his bone marrow transplant and treatment, Mark moved into his hospital room with him.

  • [05:37] There was a point when Mark's son was actually in hospice. Mark kept researching treatment plans, and he felt his son was starving and needed an intralipid without soy.

  • [06:25] Mark went to the chapel and prayed and made a deal with God.

  • [06:36] After which, a resident called her professor and found an intralipid in Austria that is omega-3 fatty acid-based.

  • [07:00] They had to sign away any liability, and the new intralipid worked.

  • [07:57] In 2004, Mark was skiing and hit a tree and broke his neck.

  • [08:07] In 2007, he gave his son a kidney.

  • [09:07] During the accident, he slid into water and the ice and snow prevented his spinal cord from swelling and rupturing.

  • [09:51] He knew he needed to get out of the hospital and within five days he was walking with a cane and he left.

  • [10:11] He had severe neuropathy and was in pain and was on several different pain relievers.

  • [10:45] He didn't like being on the narcotics and tried Craniosacral Therapy (CST). After three treatments he felt better.

  • [11:00] Within three months, he was off of all of his narcotics.

  • [11:41] His therapist Mauri suggested he try yoga.

  • [12:21] He began doing yoga every day.

  • [14:05] Yoga created an opportunity for Mark to find a connection with a spiritual practice.

  • [15:02] He started feeling better and got back on his skis two years after his accident.

  • [15:56] Mark wanted to start cycling and got a specially made bike that would compensate for all of his injuries.

  • [17:44] His wife and therapist Mauri has walked the Camino de Santiago twice.

  • [18:31] Mark and Mauri rode bikes through France, Spain and the Camino de Santiago Trail.

  • [20:03] Mark is writing a book about leadership and one of the chapters is on losing attachment.

  • [20:18] Meditation is really about the power of losing attachment.

  • [20:50] Recognize your thoughts, give them reverence, and let them go.

  • [21:44] Losing attachment is an important skill to build.

  • [23:04] Mark has never had a goal, his life has been a random walk.

  • [24:04] When we react to something, we give it a level of importance.

  • [25:13] In 2007, Mark brought mindfulness to Aetna.

  • [25:57] Love and kindness meditation is the practice of wishing people to be safe, happy, healthy, and to live with ease.

Links and Resources:

Craniosacral Therapy

The Heart and Science of Yoga

Sharon Salzberg

Benidorm Bikes

“I knew I needed to try something different for my pain. After three treatments of craniosacral therapy I felt better. Within three months I was off all narcotics.” -Mark Bertolini

“Yoga is really powerful stuff. I started doing it everyday, and it made me feel better.” -Mark Bertolini

“I was looking for a way to find practice and a connection with some spirituality, so this created an opportunity for me and so I started on this journey.” -Mark Bertolini