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PhD research

My PhD project aims at developing a theoretical account of the experience of witnessing-sleep largely described by Indian philosophical traditions, such as the Advaita Vedanta and Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. According to these schools, by following the required meditative practices, during sleep, we can achieve a state of pure awareness, a state in which we encounter consciousness-as-such (see Gyatrul, 2008; Ponlop, 2002). More recently, some contemporary authors have tried to explain those experiences via the construct of ‘lucid dreamless sleep’ and appeal to a form of non-conceptual meta-awareness had during sleep that lacks any sort of ordinary content of awareness (see Thompson, 2014,2015; Windt et al. 2016).

In my research, I take the reports of the experience of witnessing-sleep at face value and undertake two major strands of investigation:

Conceptual work

Some questions that I ask are the following: How should we better describe the experience of witnessing-sleep? Are those a type of dream experience or a sui generis type of experience? And how should they be situated within other sleep phenomena? Moreover, I explore the implications of the existence of a form of objectless and contentless awareness during sleep, as detailed by Indian philosophical traditions. Can this sort of experience be had? And if so, how does it look like? Can we explain consciousness without alluding to an ‘object’ of awareness?

To that aim, I’m currently preparing a paper that explores the notion of ‘lucidity’ in lucid dreaming research and examines how this notion can be applied to instances of awareness during deep sleep. I’m also working on two other papers where I examine the descriptions of contentless conscious sleep described by Indian philosophical traditions and I spell out the different ways in which those descriptions can be interpreted.

Empirical work

I aim to develop a theoretical account that draws from empirical research and as such, I’m collecting reports of minimal forms of awareness during sleep. I have carried out a qualitative study that aimed at finding the phenomenological blueprints of the experience of witnessing-sleep by interviewing participants using the micro-phenomenological interview method.

I’m currently preparing two articles with the results of this study. I have recently presented some of the preliminary results of this current study at the 'Dreams, Memory and Emotions workshop' by Laboratorio de Sueño y Memoria (Instituto Tecnológico de Buenos Aires, Argentina). You can check it out here.

Other projects