“All I know is I was stunned in a way that was completely unexpected. It was overwhelmingly impressive — beyond anything I’d heard from my colleagues who’ve flown before. We just can’t describe it, you know? When you go to different places here on Earth and experience things that you never thought you would before, it’s difficult to describe it. I think with a lot of those things, you’re seeing it, but you’re feeling it, too. You feel like it’s just getting in you.
The planet just glows. I remember trying to describe to my son, who was seven at the time, what it was looking like to me. I’m like, “Okay, the simplest way I can think is just, take a lightbulb — the brightest lightbulb that you could ever possibly imagine — and just paint it all the colors that you know Earth to be, and turn it on, and be blinded by it.” Because day, night, sunrise, sunset, it is just glowing in all of those colors.
I didn’t expect that. I expected it to be really, really pretty, but I didn’t expect to feel like you could almost reach into it. You immediately cannot deny that it’s a planet. That you live on a planet.
I do remember initially looking out the window the first couple of days and wanting to see my home, wanting to see Florida from space. Finally, we were flying over Florida. I wanted to fly to the window and see it, and then realized somewhere down the line that I wasn’t looking at Florida that same way anymore. I still wanted to see Florida, but Florida had just become this special part of home, which is Earth. I don’t know when that happened. Was that two days after I got there? I mean, it wasn’t like one day I woke up and was like, “Oh yeah, Earth’s my home.”
It’s a feeling of interconnectivity that you sometimes just don’t get when you’re in the middle of something. I think separating ourselves from things that are important to us is good because you then appreciate it in a new way. That definitely happened for me with Earth.”
Nicole Stott (104 Days in Space)
This testimony illustrates the creative power of shifting perspective to change how we experience our lives and our world. Seeing earth from a dramatically different vantage point allowed Nicole Stott to undergo a shift in her way of identifying herself where she no longer felt identified solely with one particular place on earth – Florida – but was able to feel like the whole of the earth was her home.
When we are up close to something it is hard to see the wood from the trees i.e. we feel ourselves as simply a ‘part’, but when we step back we can come to see that we are in fact ‘part of a whole’. The sense of interconnectivity allows us to experience our deep embeddedness and relatedness with the whole web of life.
We are in the process of enacting the unfolding of not just our individual lives but of the universe itself. Coming to see ourselves as not just some separate self that is born and dies, is good not just for our own well-being but for the well-being of all living things. We feel held and support within this larger context, and in sensing our kinship with the whole earth we then come to feel a responsibility (an ability to respond) to the suffering of other beings and the earth itself.
The good news is that we don’t need to go to space to experience this cosmic shift but we can practice sensing our connection with the whole of life and taking ‘the cosmic perspective’ in our mind’s eye, using our imagination to experience the unity of all life.