Ep#45 Radical Influencers: Writing for Liberation with Las Doctoras

ancestral healing arts Sep 21, 2021

In this episode of Your Story Medicine, I welcome Dr. Renee Lemus and Dr. Cristina Rose of Las Doctoras. They are on a mission to reclaim their ancestral cultures, create spaces to heal from generational trauma, and live into liberating practices.

Dr. Renee and Dr. Cristina host a podcast, a book club, and online writing courses. They create spaces to discuss healing from the wounds of generational trauma while grounded in ancestral wisdom, feminist scholarship, and a commitment to dismantling white supremacy, patriarchy, and all forms of systemic oppression.

What are you celebrating about yourself today?

Dr. Cristina: I’m teaching five classes. I’m preparing my family for this transition into the Fall, and who knows what it will look like? We have this beautiful community around us and this beautiful flow emerging for our work with Las Doctoras. And we have each other. There’s so much celebration.

Dr. Renee: I’m teaching seven classes. I’m still absorbing the fact that I’m in my own home. I’m grateful for that. I’m celebrating Las Doctoras: Both our podcast and our book club have been nationally recognized, and we’re starting Season 4 of our podcast.

How would you describe your medicine?

Dr. Renee: We want to acknowledge that there are a lot of wounds for people when it comes to writing, and we explore where those wounds come from and help people take back their voice and this creative form. We’ve always been told that writing “should” look a certain way and that writers are supposed to be doing certain things. We want to throw those things out of the window and help you step into your birthright through writing.

Dr. Cristina: A lot of reflection has come up about where we come from and where we currently are. Our medicine is to treat our wound around all of the scarcity and all of the smallness of the boxes we were built into. Writing has been our liberation and we want to share that with other people.

How has your ancestral lineage influenced your path today?

Dr. Cristina: Our stories are similar: We grew up in neighboring towns. We’re the children of mothers who were beauticians and fathers who worked for the sheriff. We both went to religious schools and we have family in the Southwest of Mexico. We were both people pleasers in our own way. And we both weren’t happy in the spaces we grew up in when we met.

Dr. Renee: Sometimes I forget how close our paths always were. When we met, it was a fateful moment. We were both looking for something. We were both moms of young children and going between different communities, really searching for our ancestral heritage. I’ve always been close to my culture but was always trying to reclaim it in some way, as well as a way to give our children our culture and our traditions. Together, we’ve been able to do that and create those spaces ourselves, as well. As professors, we see these kids who have a really hard time with their writing and being forced to do it in this Western academic way that in many ways stifles what is truly in their inner world waiting to come out. We got our degrees to say, “We give you permission to eff all those rules and do what feels right for you.”

How do you balance keeping your jobs in these institutions while creating your own space outside of them?

Dr. Renee: We’re still trying to figure that out. We’re still trying to shake off imposter syndrome. We actually didn’t tell anybody at work that we had a podcast until we were featured on Oprah Magazine. We have to be able to work within the university because that’s how we buy homes and bring our kids to school, but I think, at the core of who we are, you can’t be a radical feminist without having a rebellious core.

Dr. Cristina: We want to create mutually beneficial relationships as much as possible with everyone in our life, and acknowledge the energy being exchanged so that we don’t get resentful. We’re a part of creating liberation so that our children can move into a world of choice. I tell my students that the only religion I’m a part of is the university. But we do have conversations about how to liberate ourselves from this institution.

Dr. Renee: I am manifesting not having to teach seven classes this semester, and bring it down to two or one, or even taking time out completely. It’s absolutely an exploitative relationship and there’s an expectation to go above and beyond in academics: They pay you, but then if you do extra, they’ll keep you. So, I don’t do one ounce extra than what I’m paid for. I don’t get paid for meetings and bureaucratic nonsense and answer emails.

What wounds are you healing with those who join your programs?

Dr. Cristina: Something as simple as the library, which is a symbol of white supremacy, becomes a wound to heal by creating a similar space without the gatekeeping.

Dr. Renee: Writing goes beyond the physical activity of putting words on paper. It’s imagination, brainstorming, and all of those intangibles as well. Our students come with a mindset of perfectionism, and we tell them, “No.” All of it counts. All of it is valid. That’s why we created our own programs outside of the university—so that we could be who we want to be without someone looking over our shoulder. Even our students tend to freeze when we ask them to share what they wrote; so, we’re doing what we can to really eliminate that sense of gatekeeping when it comes to the writing process.

What was it like to teach exclusively online during the pandemic?

Dr. Renee: It was really tough. It was literally overnight. I haven’t seen a classroom in over a year-and-a-half. I’m okay teaching online and quite enjoy it. I don’t have to make that hour-long commute. I actually have to come back next week and I’m dreading the commute. I love teaching in person, but I don’t love commuting. Teaching online has given me freedom and I get to stay at home.

Dr. Cristina: It’s a whole different type of teaching. It takes a lot of energy standing in front of students versus teaching them online. I now get to have one-on-one interactions with students who actually want to be there, and I develop some real relationships through teaching online.

Tell us how your new course on sacred writing was born.

Dr. Renee: Well, I think I was taking your class, June, and I was wondering what sacred skills I have that I could turn into my sacred offering. I thought that a writing course was a great idea and I brought it to Cristina. And the other thing is, whether it’s the podcast, the book club, or the writing course, we always come at it from a place of, “This is what we need, right now.” We write alongside our own students. We literally create the spaces we need in our lives and share them with the world, which of course helps us to be fairly compensated.

Dr. Cristina: The ancestral part came about organically because, like Renee said, we need these things as well to be able to step into our sacred voice—our sacred writing.

What responses have you seen from those who have taken your sacred writing courses so far?

Dr. Renee: It’s always surprising to see who signs up for the course as well as the transformations they undergo. We had this one person who was working on their thesis and we helped them get past a block that led them to finish their thesis. We’ve had people who were able to write whole short stories or books.

Dr. Cristina: It’s great seeing people grow no matter the “level” they’re at when they come into the program. It’s an honor to be there as they change their relationships with themselves and their writing.

Dr. Renee: In fact, even I feel transformed when it comes to my own writing process. Anytime I get stuck in my own perfectionism with my writing, seeing our students go through these transformations reminds me that what matters is to just get something out and, once the door is opened, ideas start to flow better.

What’s next for Las Doctoras?

Dr. Renee: Season 4 of our podcast began in September. We’re currently in submission mode for our magazine—the Fall edition will be released on September 22. We’re going to relaunch our book club very soon.

Dr. Cristina: We’re trying to bring every season out into the world. There will always be seasonal waves of these offerings.

How do you stay grounded and what is it that you’ve learned to release?

Dr. Renee: I’m learning to release perfectionism, scarcity, and the idea that we have to overwork or burn ourselves out to stay relevant. To stay grounded, I sit at my altar, pull cards, talk to my ancestors, and, sometimes, be okay with doing nothing.

Dr. Cristina: I’m doing this parasite cleanse right now, both physically and spiritually. I release whatever energy I have within me that doesn’t bring me any good. I’m breathing in a deep connection with the Earth and the sky: I do a lot of gardening, rituals, and rhythm in the morning with my little one, and being present with the magic. That’s been my word today: magic.

What would you tell your younger self as a future ancestor?

Dr. Renee: “I told you that you would do it, bitch! It’s gonna happen. Don’t even stress. You’re good.”

Dr. Cristina: “Mija, this is it. This is life. This is your one precious life.”

Conclusion: The Western educational system leaves many of us with wounds around gatekeeping and perfectionism. Las Doctoras remind us that we can do things like writing without an impulse to live up to the standards of the institutions that have taught us how such activities “have” to be done. Your own style, your own feelings, and your own ideas matter.

Action Integration: Find a space, whether a table or a Sit Spot with objects and words around it—anything that reminds you to return to yourself and remember who you are.

Learn more about Las Doctoras and their offerings:

Visit their website: lasdoctoras.net

Follow them on Instagram: www.instagram.com/las.doctoras

Enroll to the Sacred Writing Course - https://lasdoctoras.net/sacredwriting

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