Several years—and what now feels like an eternity—ago I was living in Austin, Texas. I was married at the time, and my husband and I were, for lack of a better word, struggling.
I was acting in a play where my character was desperate for a child, only to discover that she is unable to get pregnant. Toward the end of the play, she discovers that her husband had gotten another woman pregnant, and ultimately confronts the woman, handing her an adoption brochure as a not-so-subtle hint to put the baby up for adoption.
I spent hours researching fertility treatments and adoption agencies, searching for an authentic brochure to use in the show. I finally found the perfect brochure at the last minute, literally printing it out moments before leaving for the theater on opening night.
As I stood there waiting, listening to the “fffp-ffp-fffffp-ffp-fffpp” of the inkjet printer, watching the brochure push out an inch at a time, I suddenly had the thought:
I could do that. I don’t have to stay.
In that instant—that moment—everything became clear to me. I realized that the reason that I had been staying in my marriage is that I had this deep-seated, paralyzing fear that if I left the marriage, I might never have a child of my own. Thus remaining in a situation that had made, in the very least, two people miserable for nearly a decade.
It occurred to me that I, too, could adopt—that there were myriad paths to parenthood.
In the exact same millisecond, my fear was revealed to me—and released from me. It was as if a weight snapped free of my body—a weight that I hadn’t even been aware of until it was gone.
When the play ended, so did my marriage. Within weeks I was single, living alone, and renting an apartment. I woke up one morning and looked around me and thought, “How did I get here?” Everything in my life was completely different. Suddenly, I had a flashback to me standing over the printer on opening night, watching the brochure eek its way out of the printer.
That was an epiphany.
I had what they talk about when they talk about someone having an epiphany. I was amazed at the profundity of this one moment; the power it had to change me—to change my life.
I started asking friends and colleagues if they had ever experienced moments like these. And they had. They lit up as they shared their stories. They were fascinating and compelling. (Read: filmmaker’s gold.) What was even more interesting to me was that I’d find myself thinking about their stories, utilizing discoveries from their epiphanies in my own life. No matter how different each story was—how different each person was or how differently the epiphanies came to them—the moments all seemed to boil down to universal truths and wisdom that I—that anyone—could relate to.
Of the many things I’ve discovered about epiphanies, one of the most interesting and uplifting things to me is: no matter what someone’s age or belief system—from atheists to religious leaders—every single person I spoke with had reverence for these moments.
An epiphany cannot be forced or induced. They seem to be one of life’s great mysteries. They show up at the most “random” moments, when we least expect them. (Like while printing a brochure for a play, for instance.)
However, I did find a pattern of four things that always occurred whenever someone had an epiphany. So though we can’t necessarily control these moments happening, we can cultivate in ourselves, and in our lives, an environment conducive to epiphanies.
Every person I interviewed about a life-changing epiphany was in a state of listening. They were paying attention to signs and what was happening around them. Whether they were calmly contemplating the sky, meditating, praying, or were in complete crisis, facing a great disruption in life, such as illness, an accident, the loss of a job, or even the loss of a loved one, they were all in a state of allowing themselves to be open to these moments, and listening.
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.
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.
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 universe 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, then noticing, trusting, and receiving the serendipity in our lives, we can start living a life where epiphanies happen all the time. When we face crises or disruptions in life, we can start looking for the epiphanies—for the answers and the gifts in our situations—like so many people I have interviewed have done.
Believe in your revelations. Believe in yourself. Take action. And watch the universe conspire to support you.
What has been YOUR greatest epiphany?
Elise Ballard’s book, Epiphany, contains amazing stories of fascinating people from from all walks of life resulting from her asking everyone the same question: What is Your Greatest Epiphany In Life? With 100’s of interviews from world-renown figures, thought leaders and performers such as Maya Angelou, Dr. Oz, Desmond Tutu, Deepak Chopra and Barry Manilow to people such as a former inmate, leading psychologists, an elementary school teacher, homemakers, business leaders and many more, these epiphany stories not only contain great wisdom and insights but will also perhaps inspire epiphanies or cause you to remember epiphanies of your own. You can also visit her website, EpiphanyChannel.com.