What if we could feel happier and more connected to the world simply by controlling our environment?
The new discoveries of quantum physics seem to indicate that experiencing life through qualia (sensations, images, feelings and thoughts) unites our individual selves with the universe as a whole. At least that’s my twist on one of the concepts put forth by Dr. Deepak Chopra and Dr. Menas Kafatos in their book, “You Are the Universe: Discovering Your Cosmic Self and Why It Matters.” I’ll be honest, I don’t typically read books about quantum physics, so I am going to have to re-read “You Are the Universe” a few times to make sure all its concepts really sink in. What I did get from reading it, though, is a sense that we meager humans are truly part of a participatory universe. Additionally, happiness experts agree that spending time with people and feeling connected to others contributes greatly to feelings of well-being and joy. Assuming these things are true, maybe devoting our energy to imagining, feeling, thinking and sensing our world can bring us closer to each other and make us more joyful humans overall.
I may be getting ahead of myself. Let me back up for a minute.
There have been moments in my life when I’ve experienced contentment and bliss simply by surrounding myself with beauty. When I tap into the light that’s in my environment, the struggles and stress seem to dissipate with unimportance – if only for a moment. In that fleeting moment, I feel peace. I feel at harmony with the world. I feel happy.
I absolutely feel this contentment and serenity when I sit down at my computer to write. Writing is my “thing,” so it stands to reason that I feel happy when I write … but it’s more than that. When I truly get the time to set up my environment and immerse myself in the writing experience, I feel as if time is suspended and all is right with the world for whatever short period of time I get to do it.
I first started to write this blog when I enrolled my youngest son, Huckleberry Finn, in preschool for five hours a week. I decided to use the time away from parenting to feed my soul one of my favorite things – words. Every Tuesday and Thursday morning I would rush home after dropping Huck off at preschool and fire up my computer to write a blog post or two and then settle down with a good book afterward. Then, as the time ticked away on the clock, I’d rush out to the car and head to school to tackle Huck with a big bear hug upon school dismissal. The reunion was sweet, made sweeter by the time I had spent refilling my energy tank.
Over time, this ritual expanded. Instead of simply firing off blog posts, I started to start by making myself a steaming cup of French roast coffee fresh from the Keurig and nibbling on fresh fruit. Then I found a Zen-inspiring station on Pandora (Heart Meditations) to play softly in the background. I abandoned my jeans for yoga pants, my Converse for slippers, and I wrapped myself in the softest, most velvety gray blanket we owned while I wrote. I diffused “Joy” essential oil in the office. I hid the clutter on the desk and pointed my chair toward a picture of Santorini instead.
One day, Lancelot happened to come home during one of my writing sessions and he stopped dead in his tracks as the garage door slammed shut behind him. “It’s so peaceful in here!” he said in amazement. “It’s like all my stress has disappeared. I want to stay here forever!”
Something in the scene I had set had appealed to him. It appealed to me, too. I was determined to make the most of my “me” time, and by God, I pulled out every stop. Unconsciously, I had been building layers of pleasure that appealed to each of my senses – my ears, my nose, my taste buds, my skin and my eyes. For those two hours every Tuesday and Thursday, I was awash in tranquility … and it sure made a difference in my life. Those hours refilled my spirit and rejuvenated me, giving me the stamina I needed to keep up with two incredibly inquisitive and active boys under five years of age.
My Tuesday-and-Thursday morning rituals inspired something in me, and it made me think about other ways I could infuse pleasure into activities to maximize their benefit – or even to mask their aggravation. A friend of mine recently told me she cleans her house with a margarita in hand. That’s the spirit! While perhaps not the healthiest choice, it sure is a fun way to spark a little joy in a mundane task. I wonder if she also streams Jimmy Buffet music, dons a straw hat or burns some coconut-scented candles while she cleans.
Your “thing” may not be writing or cleaning with a margarita in your hand. But maybe you feel the contentment and connection I’ve described when you put on some electronic dance music and run on a warm day, or drink a giant foam-topped Coors Light at Mile High Stadium with the rambunctious sounds of rowdy crowds filling your ears. It may be the immersion of sensory input, feelings and thoughts that take us to another level of fulfillment. In other words, the qualia may be the key.
“The word qualia, which is Latin for ‘qualities,’ is a tag for a world that is as far-reaching as quantum physic but pints in the opposite direction, away from physical objects and toward subjective experience. Whereas quanta are ‘packets’ of energy, qualia are the everyday qualities of existence – light, sound, color, shape, texture – whose revolutionary implications we’ve already begun to describe … Looking at everyday experience through the perspective of the brain, psychiatrist and neural theorist Daniel Siegel’s model for reality ‘in here’ is SIFT: sensation, image, feeling, thought. …If there is a reality that exists outside what we perceive, it is inconceivable, literally. Once you subtract everything you can sense, imagine, feel, or think about, there’s nothing left.” – You Are the Universe, p. 214
If our reality is based on qualia, it’s certainly worth immersing ourselves in pleasurable, joy-filled, incredible qualia.
When I inundate my senses, I feel connected to the greater world. That’s where my peace and contentment come from. Maybe the way to tap into the joy and serenity of the universe is to flood the sensations, images, feelings and thoughts I have with the joy and serenity I’m seeking. It may be the key to the belonging and significance I crave.
In your current routine, is there a task you dread or despise? Is there a moment of “me” time that you’d like to maximize? I encourage you to set the scene. Involve as many senses, feelings, thoughts and images as you can. Make the most of an annoying task or make a good moment absolutely incredible by tweaking the environment. We can’t control everything in life – in fact, we can’t control much at all, other than ourselves. A few thoughtful touches can truly transform our experiences, and maybe even bring us closer to each other and the universe as a whole.
Anything with potential to bring me greater feelings of connection and joy is certainly worth a try in my book. Even quantum physics.