By Jeroen Robbe
The mística is a feminist ritual exercise that is both political and spiritual, focused on deep listening and trust.
The mística is a ritual, and a time to share. It is the staging of various small events or activities that build trust, unity, joy and collective power to sustain motivation and energy for the day’s work. It is a common practice in powerful social movements, such as the MST in Brazil or the international La Via Campesina network.
It also has both political and spiritual characteristics.
In this way we put forward our ideals and ideological visions through the mística, incorporating play and creativity, geared towards diminishing prejudice and adult-centric stereotypes. We are shortening the distance between our daily lives and hope. – (Lueiro, not published).
How does this tool support leaderful movements?
Establishing a leaderful practice implies creating spaces where many people feel empower to enact together and step into collective leadership. In order to do this, leaderful movements will have to consciously shape certain conditions that allow for leaderfulness to emerge. Think about a space rooted in trust, connection and belonging. A setting where the desire and ability grow to disinvest from traditional leadership patterns and to prioritize an alternative model of shared power. Making space for practices of accountability, deep listening and shared learning.
It will take time, hard work and many supportive practices to fully create these conditions, as we have often unlearned them in a world which is all too often rooted in opposite values such as competition, power over others and individualism.
Practices such as a mística can remedy some of that harmful conditioning and get us back on a track to a setting which is more conducive to leaderful practices. As it creates an intimate atmosphere of trust among all participants, a place where they can (re)connect and truly belong, it is a valuable practice addressing our need to invest in resilience and regeneration and creating space for developing other competencies such as transformative collaboration.
There are many ways of organizing a mística. One of these is to focus on elements of nature (water, land, air and fire) and/or the cultural practices of the communities and territories in which we work, and/or the theme of the workshop or following topic on the agenda.
Emotions and how people feel in their bodies, should be taken into account when planning a mística.
This process would take 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the goal of the mística and what we wish to deal with (motivation, energizing).
As a mística can take many forms, we here share a few examples as an illustration of what this practice could look like:
- Walk in circles to music – specially chosen for the occasion – and lay down organization’s or country flags in the central space, or wherever suitable, to remain there for the rest of the workshop. You could also ask participants to bring other significant objects that represent them and encourage them to talk about themselves during the introductions (based on the object).
- Read stories or poems while others bring soil, water, flowers, fruit, and lighted candles to a designated place.
- Acknowledge present and absent activists, showing photographs or videos.
- Poetry, dance, images, stories, thoughts and other contributions could be shared.
This has been sourced from the Feminist Popular Education Manual: Sowing Gender Justice to Dismantle Patriarchy, Friends of the Earth, 2020, pg 9.
- More from the Leaderful Organising Collection
- Active Listening Roleplay
- Ideas for Embodied Activism
- The SCARF Model for Psychological Safety in Groups
- The Art and Craft of Training Workshop Design
- Belonging Design Principles: Guide for Building Belonging
- Belonging: A Facilitator and Practice Guide