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Dreaming the day away

Rosanna Turner
Daily Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the DailyVictoria Rabinowe has been studying dreams since 1992, and she's an annual presenter at the International Association for the Study of Dreams.
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When your head hits the pillow, your body sleeps but your brain stays awake, dreaming the night away until you’re woken up by an alarm, the dog or by the excitement of the dream itself. Are dreams just the brain’s way of entertaining itself? Or is there a deeper meaning to the sounds and images that flash in our mind during REM sleep? Victoria Rabinowe has been studying dreams since 1992, and she’s an annual presenter at the International Association for the Study of Dreams.

“Twenty years ago, the predominated feeling was that dreams were just misfiring synapses in the brain,” Rabinowe said. “Now it’s pretty universally accepted that no, they’re not. There is a reason that we dream; there is something larger going on.”

Rabinowe is the creative director of The Dreaming Arts Studio in Santa Fe, N.M. She’s also the author and illustrator of “I Had the Craziest Dream Last Night: Creative Explorations into the Genius of the Night Mind.” Rabinowe will give a lecture in Vail on Monday evening. On Tuesday, she’ll hold a workshop in which participants will explore their dreams and create their own artist book.

“(At the lecture), I will give an overview of what dreams are and how I personally as an artist have come to work with dreams,” Rabinowe said. “I’m going to read a few dreams and show how I interpret them artistically. … I want to show how you go from crazy story to beautiful artwork.”

Rabinowe wants to teach people that the odd and often confusing stories we experience while dreaming are not just made-up “mumbo jumbo.”

Rabinowe said she has yet to meet anyone who doesn’t remember at least one dream they’ve had.

“The most important detail about dreams is that we all dream,” Rabinowe said. “Whether you’re a Buddhist or a fireman, a republican or democrat, every sentient being dreams. There has to be a reason for it.”

According to Rabinowe, scary dreams and nightmares are often trying to tell us something significant that we need to pay attention to.

“They’re trying to wake you up, to look at your life in a different way,” Rabinowe said. “When we have a nightmare, we are usually a victim of the circumstance. We are totally at the mercy of some force. But when we re-enter that dream space in the art studio or a creative environment, we become proactive. … (We’re) now in control, and that changes everything.”

But Rabinowe doesn’t want people to analyze their dreams the way a psychiatrist would.

“I’m not a psychotherapist; I’m an artist,” Rabinowe said. “(What I do is) a non-pathological approach. Dreams don’t have to be what’s wrong with you. They can be about what’s infinitely right with you.”

Instead of running from the monsters in our sleep, Rabinowe turns frightening creatures into art, making small books that come from her dreams. Unlike the process of active imagination, Rabinowe finds that creating from one’s dreams gives us an opportunity to envision things that we would never have thought of while awake.

“Dreams, they’re beyond our conscious control, beyond our (own) will,” Rabinowe said. “They can’t be created from your desire or intention. That puts us in a very receptive place because we have to stay in the place of not knowing.”

Fellow Santa Fe book artist Freya Diamond has been taking dream workshops with Rabinowe for almost 18 years. Diamond said people who aren’t artists or don’t see themselves as particularly creative can still gain something from Rabinowe’s classes.

“I had a friend who was very art-phobic,” Diamond said. “She only came to the workshop because she trusted me. The first group that she came to, she created something that she still cherishes to this day.”

Rabinowe supplies all of the materials for the workshop, and all she asks is that people come prepared to share one of their dreams. While Rabinowe aids in the interpretation, she said only the dreamer can determine what their dream means to them.

“It’s like reading a really good mystery and having to unravel it,” Rabinowe said. “Only it’s your mystery and your story, which for me is far more interesting than seeing a mystery that someone else has concocted.”

Even after two decades of studying and helping others make sense, and art, from their dreams, Rabinowe is still trying to convince some skeptics that the visions in our slumber are important.

“I do believe that our lives have meaning,” Rabinowe said. “Doing dream work from this meaningless clump of crazy material (that is our dreams), we start to see that there’s a reason that (we’re) here. … It makes us feel more confident in life, rather than feeling like we’ve been tossed on a sea of circumstance.”

The movies that play in our minds every night will always leave us wondering. But by delving deep with one of Rabinowe’s techniques, one can discover that perhaps it wasn’t “just a dream,” as we often say. Maybe, like Rabinowe suggests, there is something more lying beneath the surface of our minds, waiting for us to slip off to sleep so that the real work can begin.


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