a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.
I love epiphanies. Or revelations. Aha moments. Whatever you want to call them. For those of us who prize meaning making, personal growth, self discovery, and transformation, epiphanies are valuable currency.
So how come they can be so difficult to capture?
They’re skittish little creatures. They bolt when things are chaotic. They hide when we call them too loudly. They disappear just as we’re about to grab them.
Most epiphanies are quiet and gentle, not bold flashes out of the blue. Perhaps they’ll show up as faint urges, hunches, or curiosities. Often they have a dreamlike quality. And they require listening and nurturing, because they come from a deep and visceral place within our psyches.
They arrive as whispers, not shouts. But oh, how we want the SHOUT!
Yes. Many people have told me over the years: “I WANT the lightening bolt.” (Not literally, of course). So in our work together we explore what it means to make space to hear the whisper.
Here are seven ways to do that.
- CREATE. During mask workshops it’s incredible to watch the change that comes over people as they pick up and begin to glue down the first parts of their masks. Their faces go all serene and composed. And random creation*, especially if it involves getting out of your head and into a sensory experience, will soften you up for epiphanies.
- MUSIC. How often do you simply listen to music, letting it fill you up, without doing anything else? Music zooms us into our right brains. But it only works if we stop multi-tasking our way through it.
- WATER. When you’re near water, on water, or in water, your unconscious perks up and responds to its vastness, its unknowable qualities. I personally favor the ocean because it takes me to an infinite place within.
- PLAY. Go to a playground and swing for ten minutes. The power of this always astonishes me.
- NATURE. Even looking at a tree for five minutes makes a difference. It’s true! And if you can get seriously into BIG nature, even better.
- RETREAT. Solo is good. A day. A week. Whatever you can manage. Very Important: travel light and keep it simple.
- DREAMS. I mean the sleeping kind of dreams. Yup, they’re important. They speak the language of our souls. They speak in riddles, imagery, and metaphor. The biggest mistake we make is to take them literally. Scratch beneath the surface and they just might present you with a nicely wrapped epiphany. (I’ll write more in the coming weeks about a dream seminar I’m going to attend).
I laugh a little when I look at this list, because my most recent epiphany came when I was on retreat, surrounded by nature, staring at the water (seaside), thinking about one of my dreams, listening to music, with time to create a drawing. No wonder it was a doozie! Actually, it was the culmination of a string of smaller epiphanies that I’d logged during the past year. And for now I’m keeping it under wraps, nurturing it, bringing it along.
That’s a truth I’ve learned about epiphanies. Sometimes we need to baby them and protect them. Get them past their fragile states. Then we can let them out into the world.
How about you? How do you make space for epiphanies? Or if you’re so inclined, what have been your most important epiphanies?
(*When I talk about random creation above, I mean creation with no boundaries or particular intent. An example from my own life is collage: randomly pulling and pasting images that speak to me on a gut level – without fully knowing why – is very different from creating a treasure map or vision board, where I’m starting with a specific intent or goal. If you’re interested in the idea of random creation, check out Chris Zydel’s website: Creative Juices Arts. She teaches classes in painting “without concern for the results,” which “develops greater trust in your intuition, expands your sense of freedom and possibility, and gives you a way to fearlessly explore unknown aspects of yourself.” I’ve not yet taken one of her classes, but I want to one day. Chris also has a blog.)
WHY NOT START NOW?
Hi Patty – I stopped in from Wilma’s blog. I was enticed by your blog title! I LOVE how you sort of set up the opportunity for an epiphany. I’ve done that myself so its great to hear others do this too! Your list is perfect! I have far more success with this when I’m up at our lake house – the key being water I’m sure. I’ve always been attracted to water and I’ll just bet you are too! It must be a key ingredient!
I’d sign up for your blog but I don’t see a place – I will bookmark at least!
Hi Suzen – Thanks for stopping in. Yes, water is such a force for depth in my life, and I really appreciate your comments. Also, you found me out! I’ve figured out quite a bit on WordPress, but setting up the RSS feed/email sign up has so far eluded me! That’s on my list, to find someone to walk me through it.
Great post, Patty! I’m really into revelations myself and I agree that they arrive as whispers when we’re open to receive them. For me, they seem to come on when I’m practicing yoga or meditating or driving.
Hi Belinda – That’s interesting about driving. I forgot about that one. I’ve experienced that too! Thanks for adding to the conversation!
Hi SuZen, great to meet you here at Patty’s.
Being that still to drink in anything will do it for me. The stillness to sense what is in front of me is what works for me. So a sip of coffee, a picture in a book, music, floating in water will get into me when as you say I let go of multi tasking.
The epiphany then is that we have been given so much beauty right here and that I do not have to go out and get it. It is all right here for the taking WHEN I stop doing!!!!
Hi Wilma – I love that…the stillness to sense what is in front of me. It sounds like that moment in time when you are neither in the past nor the future, but truly in the moment. And that is wondrous! Thanks!
You have provided a great list of catalyst for epiphanies! I find that they often come to me when I am not looking for them, when I am not trying. I often have thoughts that swirl around in my mind for days, sometimes weeks, not purposeful thoughts mind you, simply things that my mind is trying to digest and then all of a sudden I get that Ah Ha moment, often times when I least expect it. Great post!
Patty — I really liked your suggestions for encouraging epiphanies. I can relate to all of them regarding these special times. The beach and being in nature are my favorites.
I don’t know if this counts as an epiphany, but this kind of thing happens for me when I write. I’ll have this phrase or thought that will stay with me. Usually I can’t get out my head. Eventually, it begins to grow until it becomes an article. Sometimes I sit down to write and it’s all there. I love it when this happens! It feels so right. Thanks for this post:~)
Hi Patty – #3 above must be the reason I tend to have many insights in the shower. I love the entire list and try to engage in these on a regular basis. What I love about them is that they lend themselves to letting your mind wander a bit, giving it a break from the continuous problem solving we all do on a daily basis. A little rest goes a long way with epiphanies. 🙂
Hi ToBeMe – Great point, because random thoughts, those dreamy, far off musings, don’t always seem purposeful on the surface, but actually lead to insight and purpose. I’m all for day dreaming and fantasy. I think we do far too little of it. Thanks!
Hi Sara – Thanks for visiting. I absolutely think you’re talking about epiphanies. And I like how you describe the phrase or thought almost as if it has a life of its own. And I think it does. I believe these are exactly the ways we listen to the deeper voice.
Hi Amanda – Wonderful observation. I totally forgot about the shower! It’s such a lab for insight and epiphany. Really puts us into that right brain place. And I love letting my mind wander and resting it a bit. Thanks!
I’ve been playing with my 10 month old grandson all week and have been so inspired and taken by his pure joy!
Also the solo retreat, nature and music stand out as things I do regularly. I need to do more creating with my hands and will check out the website. I keep resisting for some reason;)
Absolutely. I loved this post. To listen to the still voice that speaks volumes along the way is what I try more and more to do, and when I find I have not heard anything recently, I know I am moving too quickly or doing too much, so I stop and listen. Stopping did not come easy for me as a single mom of two boys, but I never gave up on establishing the still moments. Now they are a daily part of me.
Oh and helping our kids find those moments to listen is important too.
Hi Tess – How wonderful to be immersed in play with your grandson. When it comes to joy, I think babies and little kids are like mentors for adults. I feel that need to create in a physical way too. I love writing, but it can be so cerebral for me.
Hi Tia – Thanks for joining the conversation! What an inspiration. If a single mom with two boys can find time to stop and listen, then anyone can do it. And I love that you’re teaching your kids that they don’t have to buy into the 24/7, always “on” mentality. What a gift to give them!