But one day I had an epiphany, and just like that, me and heart rate monitoring were through. A friend of mine wanted to start doing triathlons and asked me to go running with him. I readily agreed, and we set off for a ten-mile loop around Newport Beach's Back Bay. He asked me to slow down and I did for a while, then gradually increased the pace again when I thought he was ready for it. Yet soon enough, he piped up again, I've gotta go slower. I repeated the slow-down, speed-up cycle, and he finally started freaking out as he frantically looked at his wearable every few seconds. Brian, if we don't back off the pace I'm going to blow up, he said desperately. My heart rate is in the 160s! Grieving can be isolating. Our culture doesn't support staying with our pain, but rather fetishizes happiness. That you often can't really do anything about your pain also makes it difficult. You can apologize for bad behavior or offer restitution, for instance, but the results of your actions may still live on painfully. Yet we are all grieving, whether it's about losing someone or something, about transition, or about facing our disappointment in ourselves or others. At this point in this article you may be grieving the pain of living amidst disconnection and inequity. Ritualist, writer, and self-described grief practitioner Holly Truhlar eloquently writes,3 Grief opens us up to the fullness of our being, and we're not meant to go through it alone; We need to feel cared for, loved, and held, when we're grieving. We need a community--a village--to show up and see us, welcome us, thank us. We need to know the grief work we're doing is important. In order to find balanced awareness, we need to create what can be thought of as a healing distance between our feelings and the actual situation that spurred our upset. From a psychoanalytic perspective, balanced awareness is akin to what is known as a balanced observing ego.

The observing ego is the part of our consciousness that mediates our capacity for self-reflection, learning, and morality. Excessive self-observation, on the other hand, can lead to crippling self-consciousness and shame, whereas diminished observing-ego or balanced-awareness function can result in antisocial behaviors, identity disturbances, and feelings of depersonalization (a disconnection from ourselves). At forty-two years old, John had a lot to be angry about. He was on the verge of losing his high-power and high-earning job as an investment banker, his marriage was on shaky ground, and he was caring for his sickly father with whom he'd had a difficult relationship his entire life. As a way to displace his anger, John would insult and berate his wife, the main reason John's marriage was in jeopardy. Another way John displaced his anger was by logging on to Twitter, Facearticle, Instagram, and random message boards, under a fake name, and intentionally provoking people from his anonymous profile by posting sarcastic, insulting, and hurtful comments and threads. None of his family or friends knew he was doing this. It was something John did in complete secrecy. I thought about it for a second and then told him, If you were about to blow up, we wouldn't be having this conversation. Once you reach a certain metabolic limit, you're not able to utter more than a couple of words, and even that would be difficult. Yet here we were, having a back-and-forth conversation, without him gasping for breath or straining to get his words out. Simply put, the monitor was misleading him into thinking that he was maxed out, when in fact he was far fitter than he or the device was giving him credit for. From that day on, I stopped using heart rate to measure intensity. It is one possible measurement for this, but, as the unnecessary midrun panic showed, not an entirely accurate one. I've found that looking at power output (often displayed as watts on a rowing machine or Assault AirBike if you're indoors, or numerous tracking devices if you're outdoors) and rpm for cycling is a much better gauge of intensity. Periodically I break out a heart rate monitor to see if where I'm at metabolically correlates with my beats per minute. And then I find that a funny thing happens. Just as my friend did on that run, I start freaking out if my heart rate gets in the 160s, believing that I'm approaching my body's limit. Because it is, especially in these transitional times. Don't run from your grief.

Find its wisdom and healing power. LEANING ON OTHERS One of the best ways to heal a traumatized brain stems from connection with others. When you listen to others, actively and deeply, from a place of acceptance instead of judgment, mirror neurons see this compassionate relationship and internalize this behavior. If we do it over and over again, our brains actually rewire, biological proof that connection matters. YOU'VE GOT THIS Knowing that your brain is wired in ways that keep you mired in pain and that you have repeated these patterns for so long, it can be easy to think that you can't break out, or that you'll never change. But it is possible. I know this is messed up, John told me one day in session, and I want to figure out better ways to deal with my anger! As a kid, my dad teased and tormented me. If I told him I had a setback in school, like when I did poorly on an exam or got into a fight with another kid in my class, he'd always respond with an insult. I remember he'd say things like, Don't be a sissy! I bet you got the crap beaten out of you! Stop whining like a girl! There were plenty of times my father's verbal assaults seemed to have come out of nowhere! As a kid, I assumed it was my fault--that somehow I was to blame and therefore I deserved to be punished and yelled at. But, I'm now learning that's not true. My father was the parent, the adult, and it was his responsibility to find mature ways to deal with his anger. But then my rational brain kicks in and tells me that this instinct is wrong because I'm usually not near my max power output or speed. This shows how the mind can use technology to start playing tricks on you, which in turn enables you to make excuses about why you need to stop or dial back your intensity.

Try experimenting with your own power output without a heart rate monitor, and then look at your bpm to see if a similar thing happens to you and if there's a disconnect between what the display tells you and what you know you're capable of. You can also utilize the talk test to see how hard you're going. If you're chattering away as my friend was in the example above, you're only at a low to moderate level of intensity. If it's difficult to say anything, you're likely above 80 percent effort. Torturing the Data Data inaccuracy is but one of the many potential problems with using a metrics-driven approach to fitness. There's also the potential issue of manipulating the numbers. Tim Ferriss explains: I don't like to gather tons of numbers and then look for meaning in the numbers, because you can torture the data to find just about anything you want to find. Recognize that your biology causes you to keep repeating these old patterns, and you can change that. Let's turn our attention now to how you can rewire your brain in a way that shifts your habits of paying attention, so you can cultivate other ways of seeing things. One of the best ways to do this is through mindfulness, which is both an activity and a state of mind. In the next section, I'll be discussing mindfulness specifically as it applies to habit change. Meditation teacher, author, and researcher Jon Kabat-Zinn describes mindfulness as paying attention, in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally. It's about openness to turning toward negative experiences rather than trying to make unpleasant feelings just go away. Can you see how this might work to transform your coping behaviors? When we lighten up on judgment and accept the moment, it helps us to make more thoughtful choices rather than resort to damaging reactive behaviors. Mindfulness can be practiced at any time, whatever we are doing and whoever we are with, by showing up and being fully engaged in the here and now. MEDITATION PRACTICE I'd bet my entire savings his father did the same to him. Repetitions, Enactments, and Social Media

There was no question about it--John's childhood had been traumatic. People who have been victimized or traumatized often try to cope and cover up their wounded feelings by being aggressive and domineering in their relationships with others. And John was right to assume his father had suffered a similar miserable childhood with his own father. It's this same cycle of family abuse that explains why school bullies have often been victims of bullying themselves. The defense mechanism--identifying with the aggressor, briefly stated--describes the process by which a victim of abuse internalizes and adopts the behaviors of their abuser. An extreme example of this is Stockholm syndrome: in these cases, the victim seeks to avoid abuse by creating an emotional connection with their abuser in hopes that the abuser will develop feelings of empathy and relatedness toward the abused, thereby decreasing the chances of abuse and increasing chances of survival. Back to John We are all destined to repeat toxic dynamics from childhood that we haven't yet uncovered, understood, and healed. Maybe you have a confirmation bias and want to find something in the data. You can bend it and manipulate it, and slice and dice it in such a way, or just fool yourself in such a fashion that you'll find patterns and create cause and effect where there is none. The solution? Cultivating both intellectual honesty and a controlled approach to self-experimentation. Ferriss continues, Richard Feynman said, `The first principle is that you must not fool yourself--and you are the easiest person to fool. You've also got to develop your thought processes in such a way so that you don't fool yourself. It also helps me to focus on a specific objective. All the metrics I gather and the testing I do--let's say a biopsy is looking at citrate synthase or VO2 max--is goal-oriented. If you are going to do any kind of performance-based test, make sure you have a defined purpose, objective, and hypothesis before testing. Then, have a clear action plan that you are willing to commit to afterward, regardless of the outcome. Meditation is a way of practicing mindfulness. With a regular meditation practice, you can train your brain to better tolerate emotions and not be so vulnerable to needing to distract yourself or make them go away.