Back on January 30, 2017, I posted a blog that talked generally about the concept of mast’ay (See “Ceremony as Personal Mast’ay”). Today, I want to apply the concept of mast’ay specifically to the misha (mesa in Spanish) and despacho.
In that 2017 post, I described mast’ay as follows: “Mast’ay is a Quechua word that in daily life refers to unfolding and spreading out a cloth or weaving, perhaps on the table or a bed. In the mystical tradition, it refers to bringing order, organization, or structure to something. When you make a despacho, you are doing a mast’ay. When you arrange the khuyas in your misha, you are doing a mast’ay. But you don’t only bring order to things outside yourself. You can apply mast’ay to your own beingness. When you bring greater organization to the inner self, everything in your life is affected in positive and productive ways. The inner mast’ay furthers your awareness and, thus, your potential for conscious evolution as a human being.”
If you take that definition and description at face value, then you will understand why I explain to my students that the making of a misha and a despacho are each an act of mast’ay—of organizing the self, of expressing who you really are. As I explain it, the misha and despacho are practices that externalize your internal state.
It must be so, because both the misha and, especially, the despacho are grounded in ayni—in reciprocity (your energetic interchanges with spirit beings or the kawsay pacha at large). Ayni is a reflection of your internal state—of your very state of being. Ayni isn’t ayni if it isn’t the totally and completely authentic flow of your personal energy to the kawsay pacha.
That’s why I tell my students that as a paqo, you don’t create a misha or a despacho by rote. If you slavishly follow instructions taught to you by someone else, you are being robotic. You must develop your own way of doing things, because your ayni offering must be true to you—and there is no one else in universe like you. You are a unique Drop of the Mystery. You are who you are because of your unique life experience and path, your feelings and emotions, your beliefs and so on. Your despacho and misha must reflect you alone. They must express your ayni, which by its very nature has to be exclusively yours and not dependent on someone else’s belies or rules.
You might learn what the misha means and how to use it. But the khuyas you choose to go in it must be reflective of your own inner “structure” and personal “energetic organization”—your mast’ay. The last thing you want to do is make your misha a collection of trophy stones from sacred sites or teachers. No! All kinds of things will go in your misha—stones, trinkets, and other items that represent the milestones of your self-development, of your life, of your important relationships, of your very beingness.
No one has followed the same life path you have. No one sees and feels and understands the world exactly the way you do. No one has experienced exactly what you have. Therefore, your misha can be like no one else’s, both in what it contains and how you organize it when you work with it open. While you may have learned to place certain stones in certain positions and so on, you have to stop and ask yourself: “Is this how I want to organize my misha? Is this true to me and the meanings I superimpose on the mast’ay of my misha?” If your answer to either question is “No,” then it’s time to express your personal artistry while working with and organizing your misha.
Furthermore, you are growing, changing human being. You are not static in experience, form, or energy. The same goes for your misha. If it is an externalization of your internal state, then it must change as you change. Items you put it in years ago might no longer be representative of your current state of ayni. New items might be necessary to represent who you have become. Typically, we work with the mast’ay of our misha at least once a year, on the Andean “new year’s” day of August 1. We “feed” our misha and reorganize it (reconsider its mast’ay). For example, one year while I was doing this I realized that there two stones I had put in my misha decades ago but no longer had any connection to. Although I knew they came from sacred sites in Peru, I couldn’t remember which sites. These stones were absolutely meaningless to me. I understood that they were no longer khuyas; they were just stones. Those two stones came out of my misha.
Understanding your personal mast’ay also is crucial to making a despacho. The despacho is the most common way you will externalization your ayni and internal state. It absolutely cannot be a robotic performance in construction or use. It must be truly authentic to your state of being and intention. Thus, a despacho doesn’t have to contain certain items, it doesn’t have to be organized in a certain way, it doesn’t have to be offered in a particular manner. The one certainty is that it has to be representative of your ayni in the moment you are making it and offering it.
A despacho also doesn’t have to be pretty or symmetrical. If you are angry, make an angry despacho. If you are depressed, make a despacho that gives that depression to the spirits as an offering. These might be “ugly” looking despachos. They might break all the “rules” you learned. Fine! All that matters is that your despacho—your communication with the spirit beings, the kawsay pacha, with God—be true to you in that moment. As with a misha, to make a despacho you have to first know yourself, then be clear about your intention, and then express who you truly are and what your intention truly is.
Think of making a misha or despacho as being an artist. All artists learn to use certain tools—oils, pastels, watercolors—and learn the rules for painting a portrait or landscape (color mixing, perspective, etc.) but then they break from the rules or apply them in their uniquely original way. They create their own art. They express their own style. You can have ten artists painting the same still-life and each finished painting will look different. It’s the same with making a despacho and constructing or using your misha. Your internal state is unique, and so your external offerings will be as well.
One of my early teachers, Américo Yábar, once said to me and some other women I was with: “Waste your time. Waste your money. But don’t waste your energy.” To be as blunt as Americo was, I would counsel you that making and offering your despacho or constructing and organizing your misha according to anything but your unique personal internal mast’ay is a waste of your energy.