Tagged: therapy in Portland

“Dancing the Mind” Reflections on Nacera Beleza at PICA’s 2013 TBA Festival

Originally published with Portland Institute for Contemporary Art

If Peace could dance, it took the stage in act one of Nacera Belaza’s Le Trait Solos & Le Temps Scellé. It was the highest mind, the wisest part of us all, spinning around and around in even, rhythmic turns. It began with no suggestion that it might remain exactly as it was: a single gesture, a solo movement, for minutes on end.When Nacera started turning, her arms out-stretched in a firm line, we may have all expected something more. More variation. But this was not meant for quick pleasure. This was a meditation, as if Thich Nhat Hanh had transformed his walking meditations into circular movements; turning and turning in reverence like a Buddhist whirling dervish. The very act of watching Nacera turn, her hair, hands, and dark robes caressed by a silver, moon-like light, nudged each mind in the audience into a state of meditative repose.

It was a nudge, not forced. The boredom and anxious restlessness of some audience members certainly lasted throughout the full dance, but for others, it gave way to quiet, and then even joy. Amusement, like watching the better person win an argument when it wasn’t expected. If she succeeded, we would all be the better for it. It took patience at first, but watching her became like sitting by the ocean on a temperate day, observing single waves come to shore in regular, expected iterations. It is not fast paced or exciting, not a spectacle from which to gain quick thrills, but it will alter you if you let it, and you will be glad you stayed.

NacŽra Belaza / Le Trait, 2012

photo by David Balicki

In act two, Nacera and her sister, Dalila, perform with remarkable precision not the wholeness of human consciousness, but its fragmented nature. They take the stage separately, then come together to reflect what seems the split mind, the plurality of consciousness, and the madness that lingers within. Their clothing is no longer the dark, Zen-like coverings from act one. Now, they wear oversized, gray sweatshirts and pants. I find myself imagining lost, lonely prisoners, and homeless people muttering to themselves on the street. But their depictions are no less beautiful than in the first dance. Their portrayal remains utterly reverential, still seeing the peace in it all: a crack addict at the height of bliss, or a person lost to psychosis but deeply engaged with her world of gods. It is suffering, but it is also the inner life in its riches, not to be judged entirely by what we can see from the outside.

The movements in this act remain un-hurried and centralized, and still lit as if by the night’s full harvest moon. This is not the modern neurotic mind being portrayed, as is common, for better or worse, in much contemporary art. It is still ancient. A timeless kind of madness. Nacera and Dalila’s heads move as if they are denser, filled with competing thoughts. Their necks sweep close to the shoulder in stiff postures, remaining rigidly extended backwards, like another arm pulling away from the body. These are the movements of people who have whole villages in dialogue inside their minds. The physical rhythm is no longer consistent and silent. Movements are interrupted, unexpected and inconsistent but transfixing and delicate just the same.

Nacera and Dalila’s dedication to their craft is awe inspiring, as is their precision and endurance. This is not a show that will leave you ready to party, but its power to transform you may rival any other.

Photo by GK Wilson

Satya Byock is a Portland psychotherapist specializing in dream work and Jungian psychology for individuals in the first half of adulthood. She recently delivered a workshop at PICA on the Language of the Unconscious Mind as part of the C’mon Language series.

Originally published with Portland Institute for Contemporary Art

“The Mud on the Floor is Chocolate!” A Dream Interpretation.

Dear Satya:

Q: I am in a small group of people at a big school under construction. It’s at the end of a long, muddy road, deep in the wooded slopes of mountains, including Mount St. Helens. Rain and mist and mud puddles are everywhere. We are receiving a tour of the buildings. My girlfriend is also on the tour, but in another part of the campus. I look down and notice that construction mud is being tracked through the classrooms as we walk. Then I see that the group is eating chocolate cupcakes. I mention the mud on the floor, but nobody seems concerned. I feel relieved and happy and begin eating a cupcake. Some cupcake and icing falls to the floor and I notice that the mud on the floor is chocolate.

A: Dear reader, thank you for submitting this dream and for the vulnerability that it took to do so. I know you’re struggling in your relationship with your girlfriend right now, so this dream is coming from a place of conscious pain. The underlying tones of what you’re sorting through are not surprising to you. I know you to be a man committed to self-growth, so I’ll do my best to work this dream in a way that points out places of continued exploration and learning for you, but also, hopefully, places of comfort that your conscious mind might be missing.

Let’s start by translating the setting for this dream. You’re in the muddy, deep, wooded slopes of mountains. You’re in a ravine; it’s raining. Everything about this setting suggests that you’re wandering in the deep unconscious. I can only imagine you are left exhausted by your nightly journeys these days, let alone by what is going on your waking life. You’re going deep into your being, not wrestling with surface things. Whatever is going on with your girlfriend is really touching you to the core, reaching back into your primal being. What’s good to see, though, is that at the end of this road there is a big school there under construction. If you take this at face value, the insight gained from it can be clear: new learning in this region of your psyche is in development. And you gain your first lesson almost immediately: something which you initially mistake for mud is actually chocolate. In this experience, what you may mistake as being “your shit,” your muddy mess, turns out to actually be edible and sweet.

I would explore your initial feeling of tracking in the mud to the school with some subtlety. Take some time to explore that feeling in all its nuances. Is it embarrassment? Worry? What does it remind you of from your life? My guess is that there are specific feelings and actions about which you’re feeling self-conscious and that, with some distance from them, you could discover they are less yucky and muddy than you might have initially perceived them to be.

There is another layer of this, however. What is also true about sugary treats in dreams is that they can point to regression, leading us back into childhood material, as if the image of a childhood home had appeared. Sugar can also point us back Mother, the first place of sweet foods (emotionally and literally). And, of course, it’s not a stretch either to imagine that difficulties with your girlfriend might be pointing you back into material related to your mother and your initial patterns with the feminine. Have you been exploring that territory lately? Now seems a ripe time to explore, not just intellectually and abstractly, those parts of yourself. This is a good time to go into the muck of your early feelings and patterns for relationships. Again, the alchemy of the mud-to-cupcake image would suggest that you are currently in a time when you can turn water into wine.

The rain and puddles and mud in this dream evoke an emotional quality of your psyche at the moment. Not surprisingly. I find sometimes, however, that really seeing what is in a dream can help our conscious minds to accept what is true within the depths of our beings, much like an X-Ray can validate some pain you’re feeling physically. Yes, things are watery right now. Emotional. Grief ridden. Yet water is also a time of softening. Just like with the earth, that which is hard without water can become softer with rain. This points us to that old adage about the Chinese symbol for “Crisis” being a combination of the symbols for “Danger” and “Opportunity.” The images in your psyche suggest the same: things have softened inside, but there is opportunity in that watery world for new growth too.

Getting more specific: What is your personal relationship to Mount St. Helens? As a collective image, a volcano in a dream points us to themes of eruption from the depths; material from the deep which explodes over the world you once knew, causing destruction for miles and miles. Again, however, this image brings with it hope. The ash that pours out of volcanoes is fertile soil for new growth. Don’t forget that. On the more personal level, I would be curious for you to explore your memories and feelings around Mount St. Helens in particular. My guess is that there is further information about this image in relation to your past that would provide insight into the areas of growth available to you at this time. Finally, on this image, the volcano can also be seen as an earthly allegory to the feminine, the bodily entry back into the mother from whence we each came. Again, it is an opening that provides an opportunity to gain contact with the feminine, the true earth-bound place of your own being.

And this leads me to my final exploration. This whole dream takes place in a very earthly landscape. The images are all derived from earth: woods, mountains, mud, and volcanoes. It might be worth exploring how this relates to your physical health as forests in dreams can often relate to the physical unconscious. In addition, however, he earth is again the domain of the mother. It is the material realm, the place of grounding on earth as opposed to the Yang heights of air and spirit. Again, I would encourage you in these times to pay particular attention to aspects of the personal mother,your mother and your relationship to her and your grandmothers, and also of the collective mother. And I don’t mean this conceptually. This requires deep engagement with the details of your life versus the big picture. The mother realm is physical existence, earthly existence, and our material beings. Focus on maintaining balance in money, in health, and in your day to day, temporal life. If you can keep your feet on the ground and your mind from pulling you up into spiritualism or intellect, you’ll be stronger to tackle whatever arises.

As you move forward, I wish you all the best in relationship with your girlfriend. This is a fertile time, my dear. Unfortunately and fortunately, the pain makes it so. Don’t shy away from this pain or from going even deeper into it. Don’t seek for only love, but also its opposite. It is sometimes only through diving into what we perceive as mud that we can emerge with the chocolate we were craving. Meanwhile, trust that your muddy school is under construction. You are learning and growing already.


Have you had a dream like this? Leave a comment and share!

Satya is a Jungian psychotherapist in private practice in Portland, Oregon specializing in dream work, the quarter-life crisis, and work with individuals in their late teens, 20s, and 30s. www.QuarterLifeCounselor.com