This is to all of you who are wondering, and as a reminder to myself: This is my personal statement for the Consciousness Studies program at JFK University…
To dream the impossible dream, that is my quest.
– Don Quixote
The mysteries of the world have long fascinated me. Ever since I was very young, I have been fascinated by questions of why things are the way they are; why I exist; who I am; why am I the way I am; and who is this person inside my body; is the place I visit in my dreams real? What about the characters I read about in books? I remember feeling this strange incredulity that I am actually alive, a part of this world, and that one day I would die. Like it was some cruel joke to be thrown into this world about which we actually know very little; and forced to make our way through this thing called life knowing all the while that we will die, but still not knowing exactly what that is. My quest is to learn as much as possible, my dream is to understand my world.
There are many worlds in which we live; there’s the one that we see as our main reality, the one while we are awake; there’s the one we visit at night while we sleep; there’s the one we create for ourselves as seen through the lens of our thoughts and experiences; there’s also the worlds that are created by others around us in which we simply play a supporting role.
In the world that I have created for myself, I consider myself a creative, artistic, curious person who is interested in philosophical and scientific inquiry as a means to understand the world. I have always immersed myself in books; learning as much as I could, exploring different worlds, all in my quest to understand as much as I can.
My quest has taken me down many roads…I began with psychology because I wanted to learn about behavior and why we do the things we do, but I realized that although it’s interesting, I didn’t want to be a psychologist. I studied international relations because of my love of traveling and languages, but found it wasn’t challenging enough. After reading a book that combined fiction with quantum physics, I pursued my newly rekindled interest in physics and, after obtaining a job in a biology lab, began to study that as well. My undergraduate degree is in Unified Science (a field that combines biology, chemistry and physics). I have taken courses in molecular and cell biology, organic chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology, modern physics, differential equations, neuro-engineering, physiological psychology, cancer biology, epistemology, metaphysics, critical reasoning, philosophy of science, various other science courses and some French and Russian language courses.
I worked in biology research for a while studying the Epstein-Barr virus, Kaposi’s Sarcoma related Herpes virus, HIV, antibody treatments for cancer, & the tropical disease Schistosomiasis. I have performed experiments which have been included in multiple publications on which I am listed as co-author, and one in which I am first author.
I have found all of the research that I have done interesting, and it is all a part of my quest for knowledge. Most recently I have worked as a sleep technician in a clinical and research capacity; in which I perform sleep studies as a diagnostic assessment and treatment for people with sleep disorders and as part of various research studies.
The state of consciousness known as sleep has become very interesting to me. I started in this field due to a long lost interest in neuroscience and the brain. A few years ago, I decided to pursue this interest and took a course to learn about sleep and sleep disorders, became a sleep technician and have been working in this field ever since. And while I enjoy it and have learned a lot about sleep, it is not exactly the route that I want to take. Most of the research in sleep that I am involved in as a sleep tech is related to breathing related sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, whereas my interests lie more in the realm of REM sleep, and dreams (especially lucid dreams).
At night, we close our eyes; we sleep; we dream, then wake up to a new day.
The world of dreams can seem strange and impossible when viewed through the lens of what is our waking reality; but in relation to itself, anything is possible and even normal. I have had a few very strange ones: ones in which I have traveled back in time and met younger versions of people I know now; or gone into the future to see future versions of them. I have traveled to China, and Italy, been able to fly, visited a land in which water was a suitable surface on which to walk, driven on roller-coaster highways, been a pirate, been shot and killed, etc. And each felt as real as if it had actually happened. It sometimes feels as if it is one place, as if I have been there before; and I can only remember previous dreams in detail when I am dreaming…
I want to know more, I want to know what it all means.
I am interested in the current theories on consciousness, the scientific study of consciousness, various states of consciousness, e.g., waking, dreaming (REM sleep), Non-REM sleep, hallucinations, coma, and other altered states of consciousness, including those present in various psychological disorders. I am also very interested in lucid dreaming, time travel through dreams as well as dream therapy. I want to know why we dream and what it means; as in what is a dream really? Is it a real place? It seems as real as anything else while we’re in it. Or could we all just be characters in someone else’s dream while living our own reality? These are just some of the questions I have and would like to explore. I think that the program in Consciousness and Transformative studies and especially the Dream Studies concentration can help me move forward on my quest to understand my world.
Not only am I interested in the various states of consciousness, I am interested in the spaces between those states, such as when people transition between various stages of sleep, or the state in between being asleep and being awake. As well as various ideas of reality. Take, for example, a person with schizophrenia; their idea of reality is probably very different from someone without schizophrenia. Does that make either reality any less real? What is it about our consciousness that creates our world? These and other questions are ones that I would like to explore.
The mysteries of the brain are fascinating to me. I want to know how it is possible that most dreams feel as real as when you’re awake? And if they feel real and our experience of them is real, what is it that makes it not real? Dreams have always been a fascination of mine; along with consciousness, behavior and what it means to be alive or dead. Questions of why and how we exist have long been of interest to me. I hope to learn more about these topics and one day develop my own view of what all of this means.
A couple of my favorite movies, Waking Life, and Inception, have posed some interesting questions. The first of which tells the story of a boy who is dreaming and has various dream conversations but can’t seem to ever wake up. The second poses the idea of shared dreaming and the ability stealing or implanting ideas through dreams. I don’t know if any of that is possible, but I would like to learn more and contribute to the scientific study of dreams.
I have always loved school and have wanted to return to for a while, but have had difficulty in finding the right program. I feel that this program would give me a good foundation to pursue my interests and contribute to future developments in consciousness research. I have always had an interest in consciousness, but never saw it as a practical venture. I just know that I want to study it and learn more and I have finally found the courage to follow my dreams; to take that risk and do exactly what I want to do without knowing exactly what the future will hold. I am very excited to take this next step along my journey and about learn what I can about the study of consciousness and dreams.