How does one create an epiphany? Here, Austin-tied author Elise Ballard shares insight from her book, Epiphany: True Stories of Sudden Insight to Inspire, Encourage and Transform, and reveals the steps that may help create your very own major “a-ha” moments.
Use with book cover from last issue
In my research and discussions about epiphanies over the past several years, a question I get asked a lot is, “What do you mean by “epiphany,” exactly?”
Everyone from Oprah toMutual of Omaha is talking about realizations and awakenings, and many times these are referred to as “aha moments.” To me, that term is a little more casual and speaks more to everyday insights. By epiphanies I mean the major, life-changing revelations that have had the greatest impact on our lives.
After all, the word “epiphany” has a deep, archetypal resonance for us, dating back to ancient Greece. It comes from the Greek “epiphaneia,” meaning “appearance” or “manifestation,” and referred to the revelations brought to us by the gods. “Epiphany,” became the name of the Christian church celebration of the three wise men or magi coming to see the baby Jesus in Bethlehem, and is still celebrated on January 6. The word moved into the secular vernacular in the 19th century, and carries a range of meanings, including “an intuitive grasp of reality,” “an illuminating discovery, realization, disclosure, or insight,” or simply “a revealing scene or moment.”
My definition of an epiphany is “a moment of sudden orgreat revelation that usually changes you in some way.” I started asking the people I interviewed for their definitions and was enchanted and inspired by some of the answers I received:
An epiphany is: a realization; an opening; a portal to the Divine; growing up; a magic moment that impacts you and changes you forever and you can remember it as vividly as you experienced it; a moment that changes the lens through which you view your life; our soul scratching around our head and giving us a signal to guide our lives with; a moment of descending light, open knowledge, and choice; a drastic shift in energy and change of perspective that happens in the form of a moment of clarity; a sense of wonderment; a clarifying direction; that moment where you know your life is never going to be the same; a miracle of thought.
Epiphanies are a reflection of us. They are all different and unique how they come to people. No two people’s stories are the same. We are all so very different in backgrounds, experiences, beliefs, and so on, but the core of these epiphanies, if you really ask what someone learned or about the wisdom they gained, always boils down to a universal wisdom or truth we can all relate to.
It spotlights the reality of humanity – we’re all so unique yet all so very much the same. How are we different? How are we the same? What can we learn from one another about ourselves, about our fellow man and about the world around us in talking about these moments and insights? A lot. At least that’s been my experience. The goal in talking about our stories and epiphanies in particular is to honor and respect both our differences and our likenesses, and to celebrate them – all of them.
Of the many things I’ve discovered about epiphanies, one of the most interesting and uplifting things to me is that no matter what someone’s background or belief system was, from atheists to religious leaders, every single person I spoke with had reverence for these moments. Epiphanies contain what might be referred to as the “mystery of life” because we cannot induce or force epiphanies to happen, and though we have theories, no one knows exactly when, where or how they will come in at any given moment.
4 STEPS TO CREATE AN EPIPHANY
However, I did find a pattern of four things that always occurred whenever someone had a life-changing epiphany. So though we can’t necessarily control these moments happening, we can cultivate in ourselves and in our lives an environment so that epiphanies occur more easily and more often.
1. LISTENING: Every person I interviewed about a life-changing epiphany was in a state of listening and paying attention to signs and what was going on around them. Whether they were calmly contemplating the sky, meditating or praying, searching for an answer, or were in complete crisis or facing a great disruption in life such as illness, an accident, the loss of job or even the loss of a loved one, they were all in a state of being open to these moments and listening.
2. BELIEF: When people had an epiphany, they never doubted for one instant that whatever happened was real for them. They had absolute belief, faith and trust in their experience and themselves, knowing and feeling their epiphany was true and right for them, regardless of what anyone else thought.
3. ACTION: Every single person whose epiphany positively changed his or her life took action. All of them took the first step toward whatever the epiphany compelled them to do, even if they had no idea what would happen after that.
4. SERENDIPITY: After people took action and actively followed their epiphanies, circumstances seemed to fall into place so that they could take the next step. It’s as if the world conspires to support your decisions and actions, confirming that you are on the right track.
By actively listening and paying attention all the time, not just when we are in pain or distress, by having faith and believing in ourselves instead of doubting and disregarding what we feel is true for us, and by taking action and then noticing and trusting and receiving the serendipity in our lives, we can start living a life experiencing epiphanies all the time. When we face crisis or disruption in life, we can start looking for the epiphanies and for the answers and the gifts in our situations, as so many people I have interviewed have done.
Believe in your revelations. Believe in yourself. Take action. Watch the world conspire to support you.