What do our bodies tell us about ourselves and our world? And how do we listen? Lyndsey Medford, author of My Body and Other Crumbling Empires, talks with Amy Julia Becker about physical and social healing and the beauty of limitations and interdependence. They discuss how healing connects to slowing down, technology, food banks, capitalism, and more.
“Lyndsey Medford lives with a rare autoimmune disorder in the American South and is the author of My Body and Other Crumbling Empires: Lessons for Healing in a World That is Sick. She writes and speaks about spirituality and justice from a disabled and feminist perspective, through loves of friendship and land passed down by her family, in the tradition of the Christian mystics.”
More about My Body and Other Crumbling Empires: Lessons for Healing in a World That is Sick: “We live in a world that is sick. Both literally sick, with chronic illness on the rise, and figuratively sick, facing ever increasing rates of burnout, disconnection, and disaster. Lyndsey Medford draws on her experience living with a rare autoimmune disease to offer broader lessons we need to heal what ails us, both individually and communally. Whether our burnout stems from illness, systemic racism, poverty, or simply sin’s separation, we’re all in need of hope, and we are called to heal together.”
Quotes are edited for length and clarity.
“Moving from the fixing mindset to a healing mindset and a reconnection has totally changed the way also that I approach the injustices and the hurts of the world around me, as well as my own.”
“Not only was my body ultimately telling me about my life, but also about the world that I lived in. And so that was the first way that I experienced my body as a prophet…As I have continued to, to learn how to live with autoimmune disease and as I have spent more and more time and made more and more relationships in different social justice and activism spaces, I have found my body also telling me not just about what needs to change, but about how we go about making that change.”
“That healing process is really long, and that healing process is often painful and ugly. Healing is this beautiful word and in the practice, the beauty comes in these incredibly surprising moments out of a lot of muck and confusion.”
“Healing is when we are reconnecting these things that have been disconnected and broken because disconnection ultimately is profitable to empire. When we feel that we’re alone and we feel that everything is too much for us to understand and someone else is going to have to come in and fix it for us—that’s when we go along with the way things are, the status quo.”
“I think burnout is actually usually a symptom of that same disconnection where the world around us teaches us to be so busy, to be so ambitious and so self-reliant that we are trying to do all of this without the supports that our bodies and our souls as humans are designed to need.”
“Overworking and blasting really hard towards a goal can feel like it’s efficient and effective but it often leads us to solutions that are kind of patchwork and easily undone done because they don’t have that support around them of all the other dimensions of healing that are necessary.”
“Maybe one of the most urgent things we can do is actually to rediscover slowness. Maybe one of the most truly radical things I can do as a privileged person is to learn to sit and wait and listen long enough to see where there are resources and beautiful things to be found where I’ve been trained to only see desolation and emptiness.”
“Slowing down, doing fewer things, is usually much more efficient.”
Season 6 of the Love Is Stronger Than Fear podcast connects to themes in my latest book, To Be Made Well, which you can order here! Learn more about my writing and speaking at amyjuliabecker.com.
*A transcript of this episode will be available within one business day on my website, and a video with closed captions will be available on my YouTube Channel.
Note: This transcript is autogenerated using speech recognition software and does contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.
Moving from a fixing mindset to a Healing mindset and a reconnection has totally changed the way also that I approach the injustices and the hearts of the world around me, as well as my own
Amy Julia (24s):
Hi Friends. I’m Amy Julia Becker, and This is Love is Stronger Than Fear A podcast about pursuing hope and healing in the midst of personal pain and social division. I’m talking with Lindsey Medford today about her new book, my Body and Other Crumbling Empires. It’s funny, I’ve had that book lying around my house and a couple people have walked through and said, Ooh, I really like that title and I hope think you’ll be interested in what it means. My Body and other Crumbling Empires. But I’ll tell you this, it is a book about Healing, both physical and social Healing. And what was really cool to me about this conversation is that in talking about Healing, we ended up talking about slowing down And.
Amy Julia (1m 5s):
we ended up talking about technology and how we use our phones and about paying attention. And. we also talked about food banks and capitalism and all of these different ideas, which might seem unrelated, but are really related to the topic of Healing. So I think you’ll enjoy the ways in which this conversation goes in directions that might be unexpected and yet also feel really linked to what it means to pay attention to who we are and to our world in a way that brings Healing. One note, I should mention for about the first half of the interview, you will hear some birds in the background. And I’m just gonna say, I hope that they help you welcome the science of Spring and that they are not a big distraction.
Amy Julia (1m 48s):
So here is my conversation with Lindsey Medford. Well, I’m here today with Lindsey Medford. Lindsey is the author of a new book, my Body and Other Crumbling Empires Lessons for Healing in a World. That is Sick Lyndsey. Thank you so much for being here with us today.
Lyndsey (2m 8s):
Thanks for having me. I’m really excited to be here.
Amy Julia (2m 11s):
And tell us where you are coming from. don. Don’t know if listeners are gonna be able to hear the birds chirping in the background, but for anyone who’s like me in the Connecticut, there might not be open doors or windows and birds chirping in the background. So tell us where you’re coming from.
Lyndsey (2m 27s):
I’m in Chattanooga, Tennessee. And. we just moved here. That wa that was a particularly loud bird. Yeah, so it’s just gotten warm enough to leave the doors open. So of course we’re doing that at all times.
Amy Julia (2m 38s):
Well enjoy it. We will get there. Those of us in the northeast eventually. Yes. All right. Shifting gears to your book. I, well, I, I was trying to think of a way to just, you know, kind of introduce people to your story, which you tell in a really comprehensive, I think, and compelling way throughout the course of the book. But towards the end of the book, you have a line line where you say that for years you have either been told or said about yourself that your body is a prophet. And you also say, but the meaning you have behind those words has changed over the years. So I thought maybe that would be a way to introduce your story, to reflect on that concept of your body as a prophet and the way your own thinking about that has changed over the years.
Lyndsey (3m 23s):
Yeah, that’s a really fun way to start. I the most like clear and obvious and even the most, when you think of a biblical prophet, maybe the most clear parallel is that when I started to listen to what my body needed after I got sick, and also after I spent about a year just kind of waiting for pharmaceuticals to, to fix me. And they kind of just made things worse as I started to pay attention to my actual life and to what made my body feel better or worse.
Lyndsey (4m 5s):
It was things like, it was disconnection. Disconnection from the source of my food, disconnection from my body itself. There I, there was a, a huge shift once I switched off of hormonal birth control from treating my body as this thing to be controlled to trying something different as far as that went, even I feel a lot better when I am feel connected with my family and friends. And there’s a lot of scientific and biological reasons for that.
Lyndsey (4m 47s):
And so the more I dug into the many aspects of my life that were contributing to my body’s overload Yeah. And my original Chronic illness, the more I, you was finding my body speaking about what is not right in this world ultimately because those were, those were my personal choices, but they were also things that we are, those were the normal things to do, these aspects of disconnection that I was experiencing.
Lyndsey (5m 27s):
And so not only was my body ultimately telling me about my life, but also about the world that I lived in. And so that was the first way that I experienced my body as a prophet. And that was the way I started writing the book, was like, look at these things that are making us sick. Mm. And isn’t this, isn’t this an outrage? Which it is. But I also as I have continued to, to learn how to live with autoimmune disease and as I have spent more and more time and made more and more relationships in different social justice and activism spaces, I have found my body also telling me not just about what needs to change, but about how we go about making that change.
Lyndsey (6m 26s):
And specifically that we are conditioned to try and fix things, especially I would say white, middle or higher class. People are really conditioned to like set goals and go after them, inform a committee and make a project management board and set a deadline and fix a problem. Yeah. And when we find out or encounter injustice, our immediate, all we kind of have to bring to this situation sometimes is that attitude of like, well, let’s get to it and hopefully we’ll be done here in a year or two.
Lyndsey (7m 16s):
Right. And that fixing attitude did not work for my body, as I said before. And it doesn’t work. We are trying so hard to be effective, but it’s really ineffective at countering the forces of empire that we are trying to subvert here. And so moving from a fixing mindset to a Healing mindset and a reconnection has totally changed the way also that I approach the injustices and the hearts of the world around me as well as my own.
Amy Julia (8m 3s):
Can you say a little bit more about both of those in terms of the shift from fixing to Healing and what that actually looked like in your experience?
Lyndsey (8m 12s):
Of course. Yeah. I mean, and this is also something that I have learned from other people, of course. I think a lot of people have their own stories of this. Anybody that has healed from any sort of mental illness or trauma I think has been through this same thing where you show up. And often we also like to sort of outsource this, like the medical industry and other things have conditioned us to be like, excuse me, I’m broken and your job is to fix me. Right? And then we show up and actually it’s our job to participate even if, you know, even if obviously most of us need some sort of professional help To achieve our goals, but it’s our job to participate.
Lyndsey (8m 57s):
And that Healing process is really long and that Healing process is often painful and ugly. We, like Healing is just this beautiful word and it’s in the practice. It’s just rarely the beauty is comes in these like incredibly surprising moments out of like a lot of muck and confusion often usually in my experience. Yeah. And so there’s just so much more to it. So that’s on a personal level.
Lyndsey (9m 38s):
And then on a wider societal scale, we have learned really specific, again, like these very specific tools and very specific avenues. Like often if there’s a problem we’re like, okay, so who is writing the legislation that’s going to make this go away? And like, how do I, how do we design a campaign over the next one year to make that legislation fix the thing? Which that’s a fantastic tool that we need and it’s not an effective tool if we are not learning about and then working towards changing the underlying issues.
Lyndsey (10m 27s):
For a lot of these things, if we talk about climate change, if we talk about systemic racism, if we talk about ableism, these are all things that you can And, we should pass legislation about, do a training at work, about whatever sort of low hanging fruit tools we immediately reach for. But then there is also so much underlying in the same way that autoimmune disease is very hard to describe, it’s very hard to understand.
Lyndsey (11m 10s):
It’s, and it’s not always, it’s rarely very simple to just be like, well here’s the problem and this molecule or this surgery can fix it. It’s a, it’s a eco, the body is an ecosystem. And the autoimmune disease is a really good example of how different pieces and parts interact. Even even the mind, the body and the soul. Yeah. And the wider social, our neighborhoods and our social interactions all contribute to this thing in ways that are just really hard to measure and define.
Lyndsey (11m 53s):
But clearly there we have the same, we also struggle to grasp and, and to stay with the com the complexity of some of these other issues that I just described on that, on that wider level. But there is, there are so many pieces, so many pieces to pay attention to and so many levels to pay attention to. So if we have legislation and it’s making better rules for disabled people, we also have a cultural piece that someone needs to be responsible for in helping each other understand what those rules are for and who they’re for and why they’re good for everyone.
Lyndsey (12m 43s):
And then we have maybe an economic piece where we need to, even if something, even if the rules make a building more accessible, is poverty kind of undercutting that because most disabled people live in poverty. We have an interpersonal piece where we’ve been taught just inappropriate things about disabilities and disabled people. And I, accessibility also means that we’re unlearning the ableism within ourselves.
Lyndsey (13m 23s):
And so to me, all of that is what Healing is because Healing is when we are reconnecting these things that have been disconnected and broken because disconnection ultimately is profitable to empire. When we feel that we’re alone And, we feel that everything is too much for us to understand and someone else is gonna have to come in and fix it for us. That’s when we go along with the way things are, the status quo and intentional or not, it’s really profitable for us, for others, for us to stay that way.
Amy Julia (14m 12s):
Yeah. It’s so interesting that kind of passive posture of, well it’s, it’s interesting cuz it’s like there are two options within a certain framework, right? There’s either the passive, I can’t do anything and I just need a doctor or the system to fix me. Then there’s also the, the only answer is an action, right? Like a decisive action right now. And what you’re describing is something actually that is neither of those in the sense that it’s like participatory. So there is some measure of activity and passivity when we are participating and it’s holistic and it’s long like it. It just is, it’s, and that tends to feel slow to us.
Amy Julia (14m 55s):
I’m not sure that it is slow, but it is within our current world and ecosystem, which is so fast paced and immediate. Yeah. That sense of the time that it takes, whether that’s to heal a body, to heal a relationship, to heal a culture is going to, I think feel slow to us. And that kind of leads me to asking, and I know again this is there, there’s a mapping that you do throughout the book where you’ve got your personal story within your body as well as this wider story, both of Covid and the pandemic. But even again, beyond that of various just social ills, whether that’s the epidemics of Chronic illness or of racism and injustices.
Amy Julia (15m 41s):
So we’ve got all of that going on. This is honing back in on you and your particular illness. Although again, I recognize this is always kind of in conversation with these other themes. And this is, you wrote, my Autoimmune disease may have been a genetic fluke, but it was also a classic case of burnout. And I wanted to ask you to explain what you mean by that. Like just for, you know, listeners who haven’t read your book and don’t know those details, but then I also just wanna talk about that relationship between connecting illness or pain to exhaustion and stress without blaming, shaming, you know, kind of guilt, putting yourself in this position of like, it’s all my fault.
Amy Julia (16m 26s):
So we can get back to that part of the question. So can you start with just explaining what does it mean to have a genetic fluke that also is a classic case of burnout A and what did that look like in your life?
Lyndsey (16m 38s):
Oh yeah. Well, to be very specific, many different Chronic illnesses and particularly autoimmune illnesses are, can be, you can have the gene for it. And I’m not a geneticist, I don’t know exactly what this means, but gene does not switch on until your body reaches a certain point of overload. A lot of people develop these after having a virus, which may be part of what’s contributing to the long covid issues where the, the virus really overwhelms their system. A lot of tons of people develop autoimmune problems after this, any physical or emotional or spiritual trauma in their lives.
Lyndsey (17m 27s):
And so I actually did not have a trauma or a virus, but, and I think this does answer the second part of your question. I was just living my like normal 26 year old life, which meant I went to grad school and I had a full course load and I took out, I was like terrified of loans and too proud to even consider them. So the point being I had a full course load and a part-time job catering on my feet in the middle of the night to pay my bills.
Lyndsey (18m 9s):
Yeah. And then after that, after I graduated, I was, the year I got sick in particular, I was applying to PhD programs working full-time. I got married, I moved across the country. I got to a place where we didn’t know anybody at all. In fact a place I’d never been until we like came there in the moving truck and then, oh gosh, we also, we got a puppy and then all of a sudden I was sick and I didn’t, I wouldn’t even say that I felt out, I was just doing what you do.
Lyndsey (18m 52s):
Right. And it turns out that that was too much without, without a lot of other supports in place that I had never really considered myself to need. Yeah. And eventually it took me so long to like dis disengage from this really intense attitude of overloading myself on every level. Super perfectionist, super ambitious in my own way.
Lyndsey (19m 33s):
And it took me so long of being sick to finally admit that I just could not live that way. Yeah. No matter how much I might want to or think I was supposed to, to where, you know, it’s six, seven years later and I could look back at that and be like, no one should be expected to just handle all of that. And no one should be surprised if it’s too much for their body just to be constantly moving and under the, and under those emotional stresses as well. But at the time it like, again, it just felt so normal.
Lyndsey (20m 14s):
And so from so many angles for like that perfectionist angle and this sort of middle class, white suburban capitalist idea of what my life and my career were supposed to look like, and also like not incidentally from a church angle of what I sort of like owed the world or the ways like what, how much is enough serving and giving, especially as a woman, all of these things had me continually overloading my schedule and my life.
Lyndsey (20m 58s):
So burn, burn. I think when we talk about burnout, I’ve almost started to shy away from talking about burnout because it does start to have this connotation of like an individual problem or probably if you do enough yoga, then you can all it indefinitely when there’s the this, I think burnout is actually usually a symptom of that same disconnection where we, where the world around us teaches us to be so busy, to be so ambitious and so self-reliant that we are trying to do all of this without the supports that our bodies and our, our souls as humans are designed to need.
Amy Julia (22m 4s):
I’m thinking about two aspects of what you said, one that even like that framing of guilt over the fact that the reason I’m sick is because I was exhausted. Right? Like that framing is an indication in and of itself of the problem, right? Like
Lyndsey (22m 24s):
Amy Julia (22m 25s):
Is. And so, and yet it is also one that I have certainly seen in myself and I, I feel it when like I have friends who are experiencing sciatica or who have gotten sick for the third time just because there’s been like a series of different illnesses. Or I mean I can, you know, we can name, you’ve named Long Covid, we can talk about other all sorts of conditions, diseases, et cetera, where one seemingly compassionate narrative can be, well you did X, Y, and Z and that hurt your body.
Amy Julia (23m 5s):
And again, there can be some wisdom in saying what would it mean for me to slow down and to get the support I need? But even the way that we frame it sometimes is, well if only you got your act together, then you wouldn’t be so sick. Right? Yes. And, and so I’m, I really appreciated you spent, I think a lot of the book wrestling in that place of like, could it really be God’s calling on my life for me to lie here? Like is that even possible that resting could be God’s call outta my life. I’m supposed to go change the world, aren’t I? you know, and I just appreciated that. And I wonder having come through these years of really rebalancing and reconnecting and you now are at a place it sounds like where, you know, if X, Y, and Z happens, I’m gonna get sick.
Amy Julia (23m 54s):
And so I both have some, there’s again, some passive, this is just true of me in a way that it might not be for the next person and there’s an active, and so do I really believe enough in the integrity of who I am and the value that I have as a human to take care of myself and yeah. To do what needs to be done for that to happen. And again, you’re in a position of agency as I am to be able to make those choices. Yeah. And that’s a whole other question, but yeah, I just wondered if you could speak to that reframing in terms of how to not see your disease as your fault, and yet also to see the agency that you have in caring for yourself as like a preventative measure.
Lyndsey (24m 44s):
Sure. Yeah. I, I think I especially always have this tension at the front of my mind because so many of my friends are parents and I’m not a parent yet. And so just in that way, even apart from any other social location issues, I have a lot of autonomy over my time and my energy that other people don’t. And so yeah, there, I think we’re all moving often through different, like, ratios of agency and not more, like more of the acceptance side.
Lyndsey (25m 26s):
Yeah. Or, or the like major asking for help side at least. But yeah, I think this is really important two things to, to keep together when often people, our default is to separate them for some reason. And I think we get into conversations where you have to choose one or the other. Or if you say, I think I’ve been really conscious of the way that the like wellness culture puts things on people to where I, I am sometimes hesitant to say, well then I did this and I felt better.
Lyndsey (26m 14s):
Yes. Just because then to some people that implies it’s your fault. Yeah. If you don’t get better, it’s your fault. Which is a horrible, horrible way to feel or thing to say, which we do say to people. And I think in so many situations we are having to, to process both of these at the same time. Yeah. I think of any, any situation where something can be not your fault. Either your family passed this habit down to you or the world around you, traumatized you in some way or any number of other reasons that something can be not our fault, but still our responsibility.
Lyndsey (27m 8s):
Yeah. And ultimately also our responsibility to forgive ourselves. And I really appreciate you asking this question because I don’t, I really resist having to make it one or the other. Yeah. And then the other, it also doesn’t serve us well to force ourselves or each other to pick a side because I think we are often moving through different seasons where we have more or less agency or forces outside our control acting upon us.
Lyndsey (27m 54s):
Amy Julia (27m 55s):
Yeah. That makes a lot of
Lyndsey (27m 56s):
Sense. And so yeah, being able to hold both of those together and to let them be what they are feels like a really important skill for continuing to navigate through whatever comes next when things are unpredictable as they super are when you have a Chronic illness.
Amy Julia (28m 14s):
Well, and I’m thinking about, I feel like we’ve got kind of this medical model of a fix coming in from the outside and it works or it doesn’t, but that’s what you’ve got. You’ve got medication or surgery or a self-help model, which is you’ve got, you know, particular diets or yoga practices or mindfulness and meditation or whatever. And there’s some, can be some truth in both of those. Like it’s not as though I think you in any way are saying be dismissive of, of any of those things. And yet there’s like, there’s a third way that is actually first of all, much bigger than the self because so much of what you write about is the ways in which we need to be not just connecting our within ourselves mind, body, spirit, but actually within our communities.
Amy Julia (29m 8s):
But there’s also just a cultural norm of pushing and striving that essentially for your health, and I think this is true beyond people who actually have autoimmune diseases, right? Yes. There’s
Lyndsey (29m 23s):
Amy Julia (29m 24s):
A need for, for us to become a healthier society that pushing and striving would also need to be really challenged. And I was, this was a another place you had two quotations that I underlined. So one was, we’re taught from our early years on that we should, should fear self-indulgence more than self-destruction. I mean, I literally was like, oh my gosh, that articulates my early life, like teenager years in particular that I feared self-indulgence and I essentially did not fear self-destruction because that’s what I was doing to myself. And then this is I think a similar thought, which is in a different chapter, but you wrote, I needed my stress to prove that I was doing the best I could.
Amy Julia (30m 7s):
And so I just wanted to explore that a little bit, that idea of like stress serving a need and self-destruction, serving a need to prove ourselves in our culture. And again, like how, how were you able to rethink or undo some of that, some of those messages?
Lyndsey (30m 28s):
Yeah. I think this, maybe this was part of my forgiving myself maybe was to be like, well there was some reason I kept doing that and there was some reason I thought that was normal or good. And some reason it was so hard to let go of like this running on adrenaline, like it did not feel good objectively. I just didn’t know another way, you know? And you know, to not to be too, I, it’s like it’s just capitalism.
Lyndsey (31m 11s):
And I think specifically in my, like I mentioned my like upper middle class, white suburban context. Yeah. We have this need culturally in that context to justify why we deserve what we have. Hmm. And so people, we do like, we put these expectations on our like 12 and 13 year old children on up of overachieving Yeah. Of learning these skills of managing projects and having committees of going to the right college.
Lyndsey (31m 57s):
And even though I wasn’t, you know, I didn’t, I wasn’t on Wall Street doing finance. I had gone to Christian college and learned, like you said to that I was supposed to be changing the world. And so I was applying that same like over ambitious overworking ethos to my own belief that I was, that social justice meant f frankly burning yourself out on behalf of like these vague ideals often or that social justice meant that because other people lived in poverty and had no choice but to be burned out by their circumstances that, you know, I couldn’t rest until everyone else could, which is simply not realistic.
Lyndsey (32m 50s):
Yeah. But first all re like my religious culture didn’t deal much in that realism. Right. Anyway, so for me that was where tho what needs those things we’re serving. Yeah. I think we could, I think that like cultural piece of what the, what our culture needs in order to maintain, basically to maintain injustices that we know aren’t right, but that we like, don’t wanna have to deal with out in the suburbs in their like cushy school districts and everything. I think we could go a lot deeper with that.
Lyndsey (33m 32s):
But what was the second part of the question?
Amy Julia (33m 36s):
Lyndsey (33m 36s):
As I almost started there. Yeah,
Amy Julia (33m 38s):
No, no, exactly. Like in what ways were the, was the stress serving you, but also how have you been able to rethink that so that you’re not just perpetually going back to that place like kind of getting back on the treadmill or going back to the place of overwork and thinking in those terms?
Lyndsey (33m 59s):
Well that’s the really important part to me actually is once I start the, once I realized, started to realize where this was coming from and like how much more of this was about sort of ultimately about like maybe justifying myself or proving to God or like the whole entire world that I was doing enough and, and being able to see where the roots of that were in capitalism and white supremacy and patriarchy and ableism, then I could say, okay, well if I wanna live in a world or help to build a world that I may oversee without capitalism and white supremacy and patriarchy, then like those patterns are just not available to me anymore.
Lyndsey (34m 59s):
Those things are off the table. They, they seem like, I, I think I said this before, but like overworking and blasting really hard towards a goal can, can feel like it’s efficient and effective but it often leads us to solutions that are kind of patchwork and easily undone done because they don’t have that support around them of all the other dimensions of Healing that are necessary. And so when I realized like burnout is built into all the things that I was trying to struggle against, using things up and using people up is sort of the ultimate goal of colonialism and capitalism.
Lyndsey (35m 60s):
We’re not just burning each other out, we’re burning the planet out. It was like, wow, maybe the one of the most urgent things we can do is actually to rediscover slowness. Right. Maybe, maybe one of the most like truly radical things I can do as a privileged person is to learn to sit and wait and listen long enough to see where there are resources and beautiful things to be found where I’ve been trained to only see, you know, desolation and emptiness.
Lyndsey (36m 49s):
Maybe if I don’t wanna live in a world where we blind people for their problems, whether they it from a personal scale to the wider scale scale where we excuse our policies by saying that disabled people shouldn’t be disabled or poor people shouldn’t be poor. If I wanna live in a world where we don’t do that, I have to, I really have to start by not doing that to myself and then I have to think about what it looks like to live a life that sends a different message to everyone around me as well.
Amy Julia (37m 33s):
Well, and that kind of brings me to like, we’ve talked a lot about illness and you know, the ways in which we are breaking our bodies and our culture and destroying things. But you also do a really wonderful job, I think in your book of insisting that our bodies don’t simply Messi offer messages of pain and illness, but yes. About learning to be attentive. This is a, a list you have in there to joy, laughter, liberation and peace. So I’d love to hear you speak about that. What does it mean? Not simply to pay attention when our bodies signal dis-ease, but also to learn how to pay attention to when our bodies signal that yeah, there’s joy and peace and liberation available.
Lyndsey (38m 19s):
Yeah, I do think that is actually, it’s one of those things that people say is really hard and you’re like, is that, are we just making that up cuz it sounds nice or whatever. I think it is really hard to pay attention to our body’s messages of joy and liberation at peace. I think as much as we are taught to dismiss our pain and assume that we are just like our bodies are just being quirky or whatever and not actually trying to tell us a real message, we feel that much more that way about the times when we are just like, this is nice or I feel like myself or I feel connected to this person around me in a way that makes me really feel at home.
Lyndsey (39m 12s):
Or I am so glad that I worked through that hard thing to get to where I am now with this community or my family or with myself. We’re with God. These are, these are visceral feelings, often contentment even. I mean I really, to bring it to like a really basic example, we struggle so much to both, to heed our hunger and to understand our feelings of satisfaction and our, our not just feelings of satisfaction but even to taste what tastes good to us.
Lyndsey (39m 59s):
And that continues to translate even more into these sort of ma more amorphous feelings of being moving from out of fight or flight for instance, or of feeling connected. There’s a lot of science I don’t fully understand in the field of interpersonal neurobiology that talks about how we like really truly need each other to do what we’re supposed to be doing as human beings like physically and in society. But then we go, we realize it’s been like three weeks since we had much of a real conversation with anybody because it’s like this world is not built for that but we, it’s so hard to be like I’m lonely or or to, and so much harder to be like I had a wonderful evening with a friend on my front porch and that says something to me about how the world needs to be and about what my priority, like what is a legitimate priority in my life.
Amy Julia (41m 17s):
Well and there is a
Lyndsey (41m 18s):
And I don know that
Amy Julia (41m 19s):
Just, I’m just thinking about that the I what you were saying about slowness and the way in which slowness can allow us to pay attention that, I mean one of like even just literally if you are watching something that’s moving really quickly, it is harder to pay attention to the details because it’s just moving too quickly. And I think that’s true about our lives as well. And so on the one hand there’s the paying attention on the pain side of things, but as you’re also saying the paying attention to the joy and just, it’s so sad to think about how much we might miss in the almost inability to pay attention because of moving so quickly. But one of the, I’m I’m curious to hear from you if you’ve had any practices that have helped you in this.
Amy Julia (42m 5s):
For me, and listeners might have heard me talk about this before, but the Ignatian examine, like the idea of literally reviewing the day and asking the question of when there was a moment of consolation, you know, of joy or peace or connection and a moment of desolation of really feeling desolate absent from connection with myself or with God or with others. That’s been really helpful to me in exactly what you’re saying and being like, oh, like my cup of tea in the morning truly brings me delight. Like it really does. I am almost giddy about it and I’m not sure I would’ve noticed that if I hadn’t started paying attention.
Amy Julia (42m 46s):
And that’s a really mundane example. And yet there is also that sense of just kind of honoring what we’ve been given in ourselves, in our bodies, in our world that has come from that. So yeah. I’m curious whether there are other practices that you have in your daily life of, of paying attention either on the paying attention to paying or illness or paying attention to joy and connection.
Lyndsey (43m 20s):
I, one of my like nerdy side interests is learning about how technology, but smartphones on the internet in particular sort of change our brains. Yeah. Change the way we think. All of this stuff so fascinating. And I think maybe because of that research I’ve done over the years in particular, I pay a lot of attention to how I feel when I’m on my computer or my phone. Hmm. Which is partly because like the people who design these websites, that’s what they do. They like bring people into rooms and sit them down and track their eye movements and their breathing rates and like their body language to find out how these things are making them feel.
Lyndsey (44m 12s):
But they’re also designed to kind of mask from us how we are actually feeling. Hmm. They’re really effective for doing a lot of things, but they’re also really effective for like, just numbing out from the world. Hmm. And so paying a lot of attention both to how I, I feel when I am on my phone and when I am off my phone is like an ongoing thing for me that feels, I, I do think I have learned so much about the internet and the ways we interact just from that practice. Well,
Amy Julia (44m 50s):
And I’m curious what does that actually look like? Like how do you pay attention to that? Do you like make sure that once a day you ask yourself that question? Do you, are you now conscious of it enough that you’re actually thinking about it in the moment? Like, what is paying attention actually ta How, what shape does that take?
Lyndsey (45m 8s):
Yeah, I do. It is like a, it’s like a habit for me now. One thing that really, he helped me do this, I don’t even know if everyone won’t feel helped by it cuz it’s not always, doesn’t always feel good. But I learned that most people like when we click on an email, we hold our breath.
Amy Julia (45m 32s):
Lyndsey (45m 34s):
Because we don’t know what’s scrumming or Wow. We are sort of just sort of hoping for a certain rush Yeah. Or something or feeling stressed. And I started noticing that with other things besides just email. Hmm. And I started practicing What does it feel like to sort of breathe slowly and then open Gmail and then try to take this all in from a more centered space? It is really hard. It’s just a lot to be taken in. Yeah. And we’re holding our breath because we’re overloaded by it. Right.
Lyndsey (46m 14s):
And I still don’t always know what to do with about that at all. Yeah. And I still, when I’m sitting on my couch and I’m like, man, I’m really tired, I just grabbed my phone without thinking about it and like there goes 30 minutes. Right. So it’s so hard. It’s, it’s very illustrative of these things that we can be aware of and, and do our very best to live like counter to what we’re, what other people are trying to form us as. Right. And then also it’s gonna still be an ongoing struggle. I, the other thing I will also say, I think spending time in like food pantries and soup kitchens and stuff just forces you to pay attention Hmm.
Lyndsey (47m 8s):
To the good and the bad. Yeah. Yeah. On a, on a different level. And even some days, some days are like, this is amazing. This is the kingdom of God, this is like everything I was ever told would be wonderful about doing justice. And then some days you’re like, I don’t know why I ever started this and I don’t know if I can keep going and why do I think this is worth it at all? And when, when your heart is just broken or someone that you love has either, you know, either betrayed you or anyway, those days are also days that teach me to pay attention to the good actually.
Amy Julia (47m 60s):
Yeah. It makes sense to me. I remember I was talking, I was at Yale Divinity School talking to students and although they’re at divinity school, they’re also on the same kind of treadmill that we’re talking about in terms of overwork and proving yourself through your work. And one of the students there was like, okay, I so don’t want to stay in this place, but how, like, how do I do it? And what came to me at the time, which I think is really related to what we’re talking about here, was there’s an internal practice of contemplation. Like whether that’s what I was talking about with the examine or just literally being like, I’m gonna sit in the love of God. Like that’s all I’m gonna do for five minutes, for 10 minutes.
Amy Julia (48m 43s):
The breathing deeply that you are describing like some sort of inner contemplative practice that just slows us down and gets us more connected even in these like momentary ways, but then also an external practice of regular Proximity to people who are not operating, whether because of choice or not on the treadmill. Right. Like, and just that those two things, I think that internal and that external will get us more connected both to the pain of life and to the joy of life. Right. And and to the, that abundance that goes in both of those directions. So when you were speaking about that, you know, it’s such an interesting pairing you just made between breathing before opening email and going to a food kitchen, soup kitchen or a food bank.
Amy Julia (49m 33s):
Right. And yet I think they’re really related to this concept of living in a way that honors health and wholeness that goes beyond Yeah. Quick fixes or individual self-help methods also.
Lyndsey (49m 52s):
Yeah. Well I, and people, people love to be like attention mindfulness. It’s the answer to, part of it is not just like I’m an attentive person and I feel good about myself that way. It’s, it’s also paying attention to me shows me like more reality. That’s the point. And whether when I am paying attention to how I feel, when I’m opening my email, when I’m paying attention to how I feel when I put the phone down and go outside or be bored or make a cake, I’m learning that my perception of what is like productive or what will like raise my amount of status or happiness in the world or, and what is like efficient in the literal terms of how I’m spending my time, my perception of that when I’m not paying attention is just not true.
Lyndsey (51m 4s):
Like, slowing down doing fewer things is usually much more efficient. And, we, like, we all know that person that like answers every email three seconds after they get it and they don’t read the original email and then they just created more work for everybody. But they feel like they are doing their job really fast and really good. We are, I think we’re all in that place a little bit with a lot of things usually. Yeah. And it’s the same, the same reality presents installed spending time, like you said, with people who cannot or will not be on that same treadmill.
Lyndsey (51m 52s):
Yeah. The reality opens itself up that, that first of all that there is more to life and second of all that the, the way to where we want to go in this like efficient, productive manner, it might, the path just might surprise us.
Amy Julia (52m 14s):
Yeah. I, I love that. And I think it might sum up what you’ve offered here today in a pretty beautiful way because again, the idea of a path that we are perhaps walking and not, you know, airborne along in traveling super, super fast, but like a, a slow path of of having to notice and maybe taking some wrong turns and maybe having some pain along the way and maybe having some beauty as well. Just seems to really speak to a lot of what you’ve offered in this book and also in this conversation as far as a path that might return us to God and to ourselves and to one another, recognizing that there’s not a quick fix and there’s not a, an easy solution.
Amy Julia (53m 7s):
There’s not a 1, 2, 3 and yet there’s also some real hopefulness. Like there’s a real sense of even that simplicity of saying slow down and pay attention. Start there and and see what is almost revealed to you and then take the next step on that path.
Lyndsey (53m 27s):
Yeah. Yeah. And, we think that we are responsible for so much, but I think that is kind of the core and the essence of our responsibility actually. Yeah. What is being revealed to you for you?
Amy Julia (53m 41s):
Well, Lyndsey, thank you so much for this time. Thank you for your book. Thank you for telling your story. I was really grateful for it and I’m sure that the listeners here will be as well.
Lyndsey (53m 51s):
Thank you so much. This is wonderful.
Amy Julia (53m 57s):
Thanks as always for listening to this episode of Love is Stronger Than Fear. And I will remind you, we rely on you to spread the word about this podcast. There are no advertisements, there are no promotions here. There is just word of mouth and that happens whenever you share it with a friend or if you give it a rating or a review that does something algorithmically that allows more sharing to happen. Also, I will say, I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free. I would love to hear your responses at Amy Julia Becker writer gmail.com. I always wanna thank Jake Hansen for editing this podcast. Amber Beery for doing everything to make sure that it happens and the show notes are all set and the transcript is up.
Amy Julia (54m 38s):
So thank you. Thank you to Jake and to Amber and thank you to you for being here. I do pray and hope as you go into your day today that you’ll carry with you the peace that comes from believing that love is stronger than.
Learn more with Amy Julia:
- To Be Made Well: An Invitation to Wholeness, Healing, and Hope
- S6 E11 | Chronic Pain’s Untold Story with Dr. Haider Warraich
- S5 E22 | Disability and the Speed of Love with Dr. John Swinton
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