The Overview Effect
Updated: Nov 19, 2020
After the moonwalk of 1971, Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell came back to Earth with a quandary: he couldn’t quite describe to others the experience he had in space. As this was only the third mission to achieve lunar landing in history, Mitchell became one of just a few people in existence to have seen the Earth from the outside, looking in.
Mitchell enlisted the help of a university to help him describe his experience and what they found was the overview effect, or savikalpa samadhi.
Mitchell translated this idea as seeing “things as you see things with your eyes but you experience them emotionally and viscerally as it were ecstasy and a sense of total unity and oneness.” Savikalpa samadhi is similarly translated in the Yoga Sutras.
This experience changed Mitchell’s perspective on humanity, our world and the connection between the two. We are all made of the same substance. We’re all breathing, surviving, living, struggling, hurting, helping, loving. We all have the same home, we’re part of the same system. We’re all working toward the same punch line. We are coherent.
We frequently forget our connection with the people around us. Our energy, attitude, movement and words affect every single person we come in contact with.
Many people approach their yoga practice–at least initially–as a singular, isolated experience. We believe we are working on ourselves. I’m working on my flexibility, on my mental health, on my patience, on my space. But as we work on ourselves we benefit everyone around us. Improving my flexibility makes me feel better, which affects how I interact with people in my life. The more space I create within myself, the better I can open that space to others.
When we come to our mats on a regular basis we start to let go of the self, of the ego, and start to feel the connectivity with our entire community. Sometimes all it takes is taking a step back to see the bigger picture and we can all find this sense of total unity and oneness–without going into space.