We sat down with Eréndira Jiménez Esquinca (M.Div, M.A. in spirituality) to discuss how she has been decolonizing spirituality and offering decolonizing support to others. We talk life in liminal — and sometimes conflicting — identities, embracing "taboo" spiritualities, and her rituals for everyday transcendence.
What's your name & pronouns? Where do you reside?
Eréndira Jiménez Esquinca, she-her-hers. I live on traditional, ancestral, and unceded Kumeyaay Land (currently known as San Diego, CA).
What aspects of your identity (race, culture, sexuality, gender etc.) most make you feel you? What brings you joy?
What makes me feel most me is in fact the complexity of my identity—a multifaceted-ness of being. Having indigenous Zoque heritage from Mexico and carrying Spanish blood—this looks like living in that space between carrying both oppressed and oppressor in my body. I also came out and embraced my bi identity a few years ago. So I feel like a big part of my identity is living in the in-between, these both/and spaces, and trying to discern what that means for how I walk in the world. Which is a complicatedly joyful process most days!
What is decolonizing spirituality?
I do both decolonizing church and decolonizing spirituality work, which to me function in tandem. But when I think about decolonizing spirituality, I'm thinking more about folks who have been wounded by traditional religious systems and really helping folx find an authentic connection to the divine that allows them to bring their whole selves, stories, and communities of spiritual practice. It’s about extracting spirituality from forms and structures that were created in tandem with colonialism, capitalism, white supremacy, and other oppressive systems, while also cultivating new spiritual support systems that have liberation and flourishing for individuals, communities, and ultimately the world at their heart.
Decolonizing church is about addressing the ways that Christianity has been a mechanism of colonialism, empire, and oppression. So it’s trying to get at the heart of what does it mean to participate in a story that is actually rooted in equity, imagination, justice, and creativity.
Can you share more about your journey with decolonizing spirituality? How do others relate to your journey and this work?
It came out of working and learning in predominantly white religious spaces and recognizing just how oppressive those structures and systems can be to the spiritualities of people who are on the margins, the people who aren't being centered in institutional narratives. I always felt like within these 'white faith' communities there were aspects of my spirituality that were going to be taboo or misunderstood—you know, my use of astrology and tarot and human design, and these other meaning-making systems that I think teach us a lot about ourselves and the cosmic world beyond us. These things were never going to be centered and I wanted to find a way to not hide that or have them be second to rituals that were more traditional.
Decolonizing church and decolonizing spirituality just naturally came out of those experiences. The two bleed together, so the people who work with me are usually coming from two different starting places with similar hopes in mind. They also aren't mutually exclusive groups. The first group of people that I work with are in positions of some kind of power and leadership in faith/religious spaces and are looking for support in shifting systems and bringing anti-oppressive practices and ways of being into the places where they are working, living, and having relationships. They’re wanting support for deconstructing and creative re-imagining of the structures that support spiritual well-being. The second group of people are folks trying to figure out how to step or live into their expansive spirituality. They are wanting to find ways of bringing in practices that may have considered taboo, or even labeled “demonic,” but that are ancestral, land, and intuitive based into their lives. Most of these clients are usually people of color, queer, polyamorous, just generally living at intersections of political identities of resistance. At the heart of all my clients are people who are wanting to decenter the Christian hegemony, particularly of that “christianity” that has historic roots in or has more recently aligned itself with white supremacy, capitalism, patriarchy, hetero- and mono-sexism, and all other oppressive systems.
I think the people who relate to my work are looking for spiritual companions and leaders that can hold complexity and different views of the divine. One of the reasons people come and work with me is that I don't tell them THIS is what it means to be spiritual, THIS is what it means to have a spiritual life. But what I will say is, how is your spiritual life supporting the flourishing and liberation of not just yourself, but the people, communities, and world around you?
What's involved in the day-to-day work?
My work with clients is based in story-telling and story-listening. I really believe that the experiences of our day to day life are the soil for decolonizing and transformation work. I want to help people ground into their relationships, vocations, histories, because that's the place where the rubber meets the road. It's fine to talk about something like “decolonizing” in abstraction, but it’s a different task to figure out how to embody the shedding of oppressive internalized structures when life is coming at you. So, I start all my sessions with breathwork and meditation and centering because I want people to connect with their body in the moment. Starting with what the body is holding we can start to uncover where the tension and discomfort, and where the hope and possibility is, is in the day-to-day life.
Let's talk queerness and spirituality. How do those come together for you?
I just came out as bi maybe two years ago so I am still figuring out how these pieces fit together for me! But, for me, my spirituality has always felt queer. It doesn't really make sense within traditional form. And I think also in the way that I choose to approach my work. I try to do it in as anti-capitalistic, anti-hierarchal, and queer way as possible—what you think should be up is below, and what's below is up. I'm constantly trying to subvert perspectives for myself, for people who have power, and for people who carry marginalized identities. My spirituality feels like it's always swirling, and in a lot of ways that's what my journey with queerness has felt like too—a swirling that never lands or feels just right. For me, our spiritualities, sexualities, gender identities and expressions will always be dynamic and in flux. And ultimately, I think for me that’s what it means to be human.
How do you attend to your wellness? Do you have any rituals?
I have a very fluid relationship to my spirituality and wellness. What I mean by that is that I don't follow a daily, weekly, or monthly rhythm of practices. For me it's important to constantly be checking in with what do I need today, in this moment. Sometimes that looks like letting go of what I “should” be doing and I dance in front of the mirror by myself, feeling good in my body that way. Other days it looks like pulling a tarot or oracle card and meditating on the image and physical response to what came up in that moment. And other times it's sitting outside at the park and watching the leaves move in the wind.
I felt a lot of guilt growing up that I wasn't one of those people that did the same thing every day. I could never find the consistency and I felt a lot of guilt and shame about that. So it’s felt important to me to embrace that spiritual practices are always changing and that there are ebbs and flows in what we need to connect with the divine and to hear spirit.
A lot of these are activities that some people might see as "mundane" or "secular" not spiritual. Is the sacred different from the mundane?
The mundane is always spiritual regardless! But I think what changes is that sometimes we are turned on, our internal frequency turns to the right number and we catch the ways the mundane is a portal to the spiritual. We can tune into this movement that is always happening around us. But we're also human and life is life and we have to do lists and get distracted. Nothing has necessarily changed in the world around us, what has changed is our perception—our attunement and need for these moments. And the truth is, sometimes we don't need a transcendent moment. It would be too much to be constantly plugged in - we can't be tuned in alllll the time!
You recently made some zines. Can you share more about them?
Sure! My zines are a way of telling my stories. This past summer I realized that I had been asking my clients, the people that brush up against my work, to share their stories as a way of entering into the transformation and liberation process. But I hadn't been spending time with my own story. Sometimes this decolonizing work can be really heavy so I wanted to find a way to bring some lightness into my life and get the creative work flowing. I take a lot of pictures and have done a lot of writing over the years, so I thought I'd put the words + pictures I’ve captured over the years together and see what happens. It was a really special process. It felt fun to notice the movements of shadow and light, of deep inner work, and ultimately the flourishing I’ve experienced in the last decade of my own life. They’re pretty personal, but I hope that anyone that picks them up can find a glimpse of their own story or journey in them, or are moved into deeper exploration of what it means to be their own True Self.
Finish this sentence: I feel most whole when...
I feel most whole when I'm holding multiplicity in my identity and when I embrace I am multidimensional. That feels like a movement to the cosmic which makes me feel connected to the collective and more whole.
Lastly, where can people learn more about you and your work?