We are Worth the Time it Takes to Create a Practice by Xochitl Alvizo


Incarnation, Goddess spirituality, Xochitl Alvizo, god became fleshRecently, in response to the excellent conversation following Nancy Vedder-Shults’ post on the goddess Kali, Carol Christ commented to Nancy, “I too love our conversations, wish there was more in depth talk on our blog [FAR], maybe there will be.” Carol’s comment* struck a deep chord within me. One of the main objectives that the FAR co-founders had in creating Feminism and Religion was that it be a place where we could and would engage with one another across a diversity of feminist issues and the broad range of feminist passions and work – where we could discuss, critique, and build upon on each other’s efforts.

So two things came to mind as I reflected on Carol’s comment. The first was my personal lament that I have not been as actively participating in the discussions that follow the FAR blog posts as I did when we first started Feminism and Religion. FAR has such rich and valuable material – it really does provide a great opportunity for conversation and dialogue – and sadly I have been a passive participant as of late. I read and learn from the discussions, but I have not been joining in. I lament that. FAR is definitely a place where I could engage with others in deep conversations, but how actively am I actually doing this?

The second was a growing pattern I have noticed occurring on FAR, of which I have been a guilty contributor myself.  That is, it tends to be people from within the particular spiritual or religious tradition of which the post is about who are the ones that actively engage in discussion in the comment section of a post. For example, in Nancy’s post about the goddess Kali, no Christian, Jewish, or Muslim identified people participated in the conversation (that I can tell). Of course, this is not always the case – many times we have a diversity of voices chiming in, but I would say not often enough. However, we do have some extraordinary contributors/participants on FAR, such as Carol Christ and Nancy Vedder-Shults, who are models of engaged conversation partners on all manner of topics. They engage across a variety of topics and religious difference and participate in conversation with almost all the contributors. You all are my inspiration!

In myself, I notice that even though I have gotten to know many of the FAR contributors well – from emailing behind the scenes and the collaboration we do for this project – I can still get intimidated by the fact that I don’t know much about a given topic. Sometimes I feel that I could be out of place if I was to chime in on a conversation of a tradition not my own – or worse, on a topic about which I disagree with the author. I get timid! And sometimes I don’t even know how to engage across our differences. This is highly disappointing to me as one of my highest feminist values is to practice the act of listening, learning from, and engaging with my sisters – and brothers – across our differences. Part of my interest in starting this FAR project was that this would be a place where I would practice such dialogue and community building. And I do want to practice these and I want to do so more intentionally.

As I was coming into my practice of eating vegan, Carol J. Adams’ book The Inner Art of Vegetarianism: Spiritual Practices for Body and Soul was a great resource to me. Listening to her on a WATER teleconference was my first inspiration to make the change, but reading her book and coming to see vegetarianism as a spiritual practice is what strengthened and sustained me as I transitioned from being vegetarian to being vegan. With the guidance of her book I was able to incorporate a new way of eating into my life in a more holistic and compassionate way. One of the key moments of transformation for me was when I came across this sentence in her book: “You are worth the time it takes to create a practice.” I remember thinking: no matter how long this takes me, I value myself and the lives of the animals enough to take the time to learn to eat differently. This is so worth it.

More recently, as I have focused on writing my dissertation, I realized I was spending an inordinate amount of time sitting at my desk. In July, when I spent several weeks in near isolation writing my first chapter, it occurred to me that this was not a good practice for my body. On the one hand, I eat pretty healthfully, but on the other, I was spending hours upon hours sitting in a chair before my computer. Mind you, exercise has never been my strength or been that appealing to me, but I do know exercise is a needed part of life and I usually walk a couple miles each day just by getting from “here to there.” But during my focused writing time, I was getting none of it, and I knew this could become a growing patterns in the upcoming months as I continue my writing. So I knew I had to do something. I had to find at least some small thing that I would be willing to spend my time practicing that could contribute to my body’s strength and health. It didn’t matter if I had to start real small and increase my practice over time, because I remembered that “I am worth the time it takes to create a practice.”

I started with 4 minutes of pushups and sit ups every day – just four minutes – it had to feel easy so that I did not feel defeated before the get go. Every day of July, I laid a towel on the floor, set a timer for 4 short little minutes, and did my strength exercises. In the beginning I struggled to complete a single push up, so I spent most of the time alternating between different kinds of sit ups and ab exercises. Over the weeks, I increased my time by 15 second increments. Currently I am at 5 minutes and 45 seconds and can now complete 7 pushups(!) – a small victory, certainly, but a very satisfying one as I can feel my strength building and can begin to see a slight difference in the contours of my arm muscles.

Making changes in our life does not come easily and incorporating new practices can be a long process. But Carol Adams reminds me that time is what we have, that how I enjoy my time, what I give it toward, and how I am to share it with others are all my choices to make. There are practices important enough to me that I consider them worth the time and process they take to create. Eating in an ethical and compassionate way is one, having a strong and healthy body is another, and engaging in dialogue with you all, my sisters and brothers, across our various passions and religious differences is definitely one of them – and one I want to strengthen that one. We are worth it. And I believe the practice of dialogue and community building is one through which we create a better, more compassionate and just, society.

So here I declare that I will start with one small step. I commit to participating in one FAR blog conversation each week. Our community is so worth the time it takes to create this practice of dialogue and conversation. I look forward to seeing the contours of my dialogue and community building skills improve as I engage with you all on so many different topics. I thank you in advance for your partnership!

* This topic more recently came up in the comment section of Barbara Ardinger’s guided meditation post.

Xochitl Alvizo is a feminist Christian-identified woman and a Ph.D. candidate in Practical Theology at Boston University School of Theology. She loves all things feminist. She often finds herself on the boundary of different social and cultural contexts, and works hard to develop her voice and to hear and encourage the voice of others. Her work is inspired by the conviction that all people are inextricably connected and what we do, down to the smallest thing, matters; it makes a difference for good or for ill.

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Categories: Activism, Community, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, Friendship, General, Media, Relationality, Women and Community, Women's Voices

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17 replies

  1. Thanks for this. Those who are hesitant to see their words in print can click the like button and even better share the posts they like with their fb or twitter friends. I can also guarantee you that the more you do it, the easier writing gets, so go for it too, please.

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  2. Also take some time to appreciate something beautiful while you are writing. I used to listen to Bach in the morning. FYI I am Muslim.

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  3. Thank you, Xochitl, for this honest post. I, too, understand my food choices as a spiritual act. I am on the cusp of being vegan, but find it difficult to go “dairy-less.” (I don’t cook and completely vegan (prepared) foods are difficult to come by.) As for exercise, have found yoga to be the way to go for me. It’s exercise, but so much more! Always look forward to reading (and sometimes responding) to FAR posts.

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  4. The interrelationship of exercise and writing is fascinating. In general I find that if on a given day I focus on writing I do not have energy left over for a significant amount of exercise (and vice versa). That said, there are a number of tricks for incorporating a bit of exercise in practically any activity. I try to be barefoot as much as possible: alternately flexing and pointing toes can be done standing or sitting and is surprisingly invigorating in and of itself. When done standing it can intuitively be combined with breathing by rising up on the balls of your feet as you inhale and on the exhale coming down–deliberately with a thump on the heels if you want Kegel type benefits (this can be done anywhere with or without shoes on — riding on a subway etc–rarely will anyone even notice you are doing it). That is a Qigong exercise I learned nearly 35 years ago and is by far one of the most useful exercises I have learned over years of trying out a wide range of martial arts and yoga.

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  5. As a graphics illustrator and photographer, I am used to creating in pictures. I’m always surprised that I can’t utilize real colors or even the swash of an ink brush to help express my ideas in print. Enjoyed your post this morning, thanks Xochitl. I once read that walking is so natural an exercise the body knows instinctively how to use that activity, both mentally and physically, and also in terms of aerobics, better than any type of gym work. So I started taking very long walks, and in fact they do stretch the muscles effortlessly, lift my spirits spontaneously, and refresh the mind amazingly.

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  6. I absolutely love this reminder: “You are worth the time it takes to create a practice.” Thank you so much. My life feels almost excruciatingly “sped up” lately and rather than heeded the deep care for self-care I feel, I just rev harder to try to keep up. :(

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  7. Thanks a great article -inspired by KALI ,,,,will keep reading and perhaps adding to the conversations

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  8. It is always good to hear your voice, Xochitl! I look forward to more. I have participated in (and dropped out of) several blog communities. This one feels like home. I actually find the blog form an extremely difficult one as a writer (not as a reader) so my commitment here is just that, a commitment. I also read the posts every day, though only comment more rarely. I am inspired by the recent posts about conversation and community. Will contemplate and contemplate commenting in more depth when I can.

    Kudos to you on your food and exercise practices. I am an exercise junkie. Keep those endorphins coming!

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  9. I love your comments about the practice of exercise. As an editor, I sit here half the day. I try to get up and walk around the house every hour or so, but sometimes I’m so stiff I feel like I’m going to topple over. And when you said you spent a month writing your first chapter, I thought about the days of my dissertation.

    I had a bunch of friends, mostly other English majors, who like me were spending their lives in the library. One day we got together and declared we would become an exercise group. Physical exercise! Exercise would be Good For Us. (We were already getting plenty of mental exercise.) My friend Alice’s boyfriend, Ed, was an ex-Green Beret and a black belt in karate. She drafted him to be our instructor. I was a member of the board of the UU Fellowship and got a key to the building. So there we were our first night in the basement of the church. Ed lined us up to do jumping jacks. Yeah, something like 500 collective years of education in that room, and we couldn’t even get ourselves coordinated enough to do simultaneous jumping jacks. Ed nearly fell over, he was laughing so hard.

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  10. Thank you all for your responses! Barbara, that is a funny story – I admit that I laughed out loud imaging your group of friends trying to simultaneously do jumping jacks! Hilarious!

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  11. Xochitl,

    I really appreciate your post. I’ve read FAR since (I think) its inception–but rarely comment (and usually only do when I feel there are abusive comments that need to be addressed–and even then sometimes wish I had not). I have been thinking a lot about the comments made about why FAR doesn’t have a heavy commenting community (and why it is– as you stated– usually driven by those who identify with the tradition/experience of the article).

    I think what is hard is that onlineis– there is such a a variety of commenting: two that I identify are voicing and community. I still don’t know the exact definition of the differences but I know them when I see them?

    I love interactions where community is built– questions are asked– challenges are given in. This includes not only affirmation but gentle questioning of the writer and things that are brought up– and sometimes even not gentle but more affirmative stances on things. It is still all in the name of community and usually the tone is not lost–even in internet writing.

    I struggle with comments that do not feel like they are in the spirit of community building. I see it everywhere online– I call it voicing. Because the internet gives us such anonymity– even if pictures are attached we are not all in the same room holding each other accountable– sometimes I see comments that are clearly “rushed to print”– maybe not thought out in the spirit of growing a community of feminists. XOJANE had an article recently about how feminist online have become their own worst enemies– tearing each other apart in opinion pieces instead of thoughtfully questioning and community building. I feel like I agree with that sentiment and it holds me back– especially when I see mico-examples of that in comments (some not so micro that feel passive aggressive or mean to downright hateful). This doesn’t mean I do not want disagreement. I heavily disagree with quite a bit written on here (in a good and productive way)– I just wonder if sometimes we forget that how we interact affect having interactions at all? Does that make sense? Sorry– this was long winded.

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  12. I should mention that I think privilege/acknowledgement (or lack of acknowledgement) of ones privilege also plays into commenting/dialogue but I feel like diving into this part is so loaded I don’t even know how to comment on it :)

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  13. What a wonderful post! I, too, love the comments, especially when a diversity of voices engage in the discussion and we all gain new perspectives. And I’ve loved watching the community of FAR emerge from the celebration of both commonalities and differences. Everyone who participates in FAR in any way is truly creating “something new under the sun” as a community and that is amazing and beautiful to witness.

    As for exercise, I’ve always found that exercising with other people makes it easier and more likely that you will continue (I loved your story Barbara!). Many days I go for half-hour walks at 7 am and then again at 4:30 pm US Eastern Time. Even if we obviously can’t walk in the same location, maybe if some of those reading FAR walk at the same time, wherever they may be, we can feel like we are “walking together,” even if we have no idea who may or may not be walking at that time. True Confession – I probably won’t be able to get back into this routine till October, but that doesn’t mean other people can’t walk at those times and I’ll rejoin you in a few weeks…

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    • Comments on comments are a special walking together, closer in thought than general comments. I have a lot of responsibilities that claim my day, so I can’t keep a schedule, but I will remember you, Carolyn, on my next excursion, and I am going to start making it a practice to remember gratitude for FAR, whenever I walk, because it is surely the most important support group I walk with.

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  14. Xochitl, I’m really sorry that I missed this post when it came out. As you know, I love FAR. it is by FAR (pun intended) the most “community” oriented site I’ve found on the internet (as Martha defines this above). By and large, we are respectful of each other. But I’ve been missing the Mormon women who used to post here (and maybe they left because not everything they wrote was received in a respectful way). And would love to hear from some Hindu feminists as well. And if we could find some atheist women who don’t automatically put down religion as a category, that would be great as well.

    The conversation here helps me as a thinker in many ways. Sometimes it helps me figure out some nuance of my own thealogy. Sometimes it opens my eyes to feminism in religions I don’t know as much about as I would like. It always makes me feel that feminism is an absolutely necessary wedge into the many patriarchies we are encountering. And it helps me to be a better ally to other women’s feminism within traditions that are not my own. YES!! I LOVE IT! Let’s get deeper into it, so these benefits multiply.

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  15. Hi Nancy! Thank you for your comment – as you can see, I’ve been this one for a while now too. I definitely agree with you, I too have missed our Mormon sisters on the blog. And I know some of them did experience discouragement from some of the comments posted. To remain open to one another’s choices, work, and expressions of feminisms – even when they look very different from our own – continues to be a struggle. I do think we are working to create a diverse and supporting community here on FAR. I’m grateful for that and grateful for your contribbutions toward too. I also think it’s great – and necessary – that we take feminism to the far reaches of patriarchies – indeed!

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