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3 Ways to Experience The Overview Effect on Earth

The Overview Effect is a term used to describe the profound realizations and the shift in awareness reported by some astronauts when they view Earth from space. The term was coined by author Frank White in the 1970’s when he was flying across the country. As he gazed at the earth from the airplane window he thought, “Anyone living in space will always have an overview. They will see things that we know, but that we don't experience, which is that the earth is one system, we're all part of that system, and there is a certain unity and coherence to it all”. 
Experiencing something so profound as gazing at your home planet from space certainly has the potential to stir up many realizations about life and our place in the universe. Apollo astronaut, Edgar Mitchell, had an awakening experience on his journey back to Earth as he viewed the earth, moon, and sun out of his shuttle window. 

He explained in an interview that the shuttle was turning in such a way to give him a 360° view of the heavens, and as he took this in he felt a deep understanding that everything is connected and felt complete bliss. He said, “After I came back and tried to understand what this experience was all about, I turned to the local university and asked them to help me with what I saw. They said in the ancient literature there is a description called savikalpa samadhi and they said that means that you see things with your eyes, but you experience them emotionally and viscerally with ecstasy and a sense of total unity and oneness. And I said, well that’s exactly what the experience was”. 

This deep awareness and understanding is not a new concept, but has been taught and practiced for centuries by many ancient cultures, usually through meditation. While the experience of going to space and viewing Earth from afar is undeniably profound, we don’t need to go to space to have these revelations.

Here are three ways you can experience The Overview Effect here on Earth:

1. Meditate

Meditation is the practice of training the mind to focus on the present moment. This is often done through centring the awareness on the breath, or other focus points such as an object, activity, or mantra. Thoughts and emotions will undoubtedly come up as you centre your awareness in the present, your mind will likely get distracted by the past or jump to thoughts about the future. It’s not about turning these thoughts and emotions off, but becoming aware of them and observing them. 

The practice of meditation strengthens your ability to observe rather than react. Regular meditation can help you to broaden your perspective on life, you can look at the bigger picture and have a greater understanding of yourself and your circumstances. 

Savikalpa samadhi is regarded as the peak state of all spiritual practice where the meditator experiences oneness with the universe. This is the experience Apollo astronaut, Edgar Mitchell had while viewing the cosmos upon his return to Earth. In savikalpa samadhi, the mind is only conscious of the spirit within and it’s oneness with the whole.

2. Spend Time in Nature

We have become so disconnected from the natural world around us. We work inside, we eat inside, we relax inside, and this has dulled our awareness of our interconnectedness with the species we share this planet with. Many of us spend more time scrolling social media and looking at the lives of others through a screen than we do experiencing our own surroundings. 

Take a walk, spend time looking up at the sky, venture to a nearby park or beach for the afternoon, or anything that gets you outside in the natural world. Take time to be present when you find your little piece of nature, notice the life around you, and see the world that you are interconnected with, rather than separate from.

3. Practice Gratitude

When astronauts gaze back at the earth from space, many report a deep sense of gratitude for their home planet. They express how beautiful Earth is, how alive it is, and how it has everything we need to exist in the harshness of space. 

Nicole Stott, shuttle and ISS astronaut, said “When you finally look at the earth for the first time, you’re overwhelmed by how much more beautiful it really is… It’s this dynamic, alive place that you see glowing all the time”. 

Earth provides us with everything we need to be alive. It has flowing rivers, lush forests, fresh air and abundant wildlife. Look around at the planet that sustains your existence, notice that you have everything you need and how amazing it is that you are here. 

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