Have you ever had an epiphany? Have you had a moment of clarity or insight that transformed your life? Have you ever looked back and wondered about the defining moments that shaped you, still drive you or unwittingly inspire you?
These are the questions that moved Elise Ballard, an actress, filmmaker and author to create The Epiphany Channel, and to compile the remarkable stories of manifestation from celebrities, social entrepreneurs, artists and everyday people in her book, “Epiphany” (Harmony Books, Random House, NY).
From internationally renowned icons such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Maya Angelou, to Craig Newmark, Cory Booker, musicians and grade-school teachers, Elise Ballard is on a mission to collect the remarkable stories of our lives, the ones we can recall in the finest detail with all the emotion as strong as if the event happened only hours ago.
Some of the people Elise interviewed said they never thought much about their epiphanies or the single event that altered the course of their lives, but Elise has developed a knack for drawing the bright-light moments from their pasts, helping them relive the eurekas, the shuddering insight, the thunder, the dawn.
It all started when Elise had an epiphany of her own regarding the end of her marriage, which she describes in detail in the book. She came to the understanding, “I had an epiphany. That is what is talked about when someone has an epiphany! I’ve experienced one and it drastically changed me and I was finally able to drastically change my life.” Elise began asking friends if they had ever had an epiphany and later began to ask what their greatest epiphany was.
The project took shape in Elise’s mind as she spoke to more and more people. Some initially responded that they never had one, but called her back after thinking about the question and discovering that they had indeed, experienced life-changing moments of clarity and revelation.
Elise shared her ideas about the project with her friends in the film-making industry and garnered support. Before long Elise began to film the interviews and sought people she admired to ask them the big question. The “epiphany” project was intended to be an independent film, but grew into the current book and website incarnation.
I asked her how she was able to score such great interviews. “I’m in the entertainment field. I produced the videos for Dr. Mehmet Oz for his ‘You’ books, so I got Dr. Oz fairly early on. Then a production company wanted to do this as a reality TV program. This was just going to be an independent film. When I was married we had a production company that did two feature films that Lionsgate and Monarch Entertainment bought. I’ve been in the game of producing and acting for over ten years. So although I’m not a celebrity I have some celebrity friends who gave me interviews and friends referred me to friends and I asked people I admired and met, and then having Random House in my corner helped. I think the nature of the question was appealing to people. It was just one of those projects that fell into place and snowballed.”
Elise became fascinated not only with the stories but with the emotions wrought from the telling of the stories by those who relived them. “When I watched the footage not only would it affect me in the moment I was watching but I would think, “you know this is really interesting, people are really interesting when they talk about these.” But more than that, I found myself later on thinking about them and actually utilizing what they told me in my life.” That is what sealed the idea for Elise that she could help others by sharing these stories.
What’s unique about “Epiphany” is these aren’t the typical Saul-to-Paul stories that push the personal growth market; these are stories of being open to transformation and of accepting the gift of change, of contributing to humanity. Many of the people Elise interviewed were already successful in professional pursuits yet found fulfillment through an awakening of the greater good within themselves and an awareness of the riches of the universe around them. Two that stand out are the actor G.W. Bailey, who became the director of the Sunshine Kids Foundation and Kathy and Bill Magee, M.D., who founded and run Operation Smile, an international team of medical professionals and volunteers who perform plastic surgery on children born with defects such as cleft lips and palates. These people and others like them already had solid careers but their epiphanies compelled them to dedicate their lives to noble causes.
Elise’s own epiphany may have given her a new direction but what it gave the rest of us is the opportunity to be inspired and awakened to the idea of the kind of consciousness that pushes us to act upon our own spectacular instances. “I started discovering there was real wisdom in what they were talking about that was apt for my life.”
Elise interviewed everyone in the book and those conversations elicited the most salient lessons derived from the experiences. What you read isn’t just a synopsis of an epiphany sent in by the subject, but the point of it all. “Sometimes we’d talk for an hour and a half, and so, in choosing what to write, I looked at what aspects affected me the most.”
Elise begins each story with background information of the subject and the interview, followed by a first-person account of the life-changing moment. This style is fun because you get to read these accounts in the voice of the person who experienced it. It’s not simply a re-telling but a reliving. It’s the kind of book that ends up dog-eared and highlighted, ready for quick reference.
Epiphanies happen to every type of person in every context. “I have people e-mailing me from all over the world. It’s a big community now. When something is true and right for you, when something is meant to be, it will flow. One of the drivers of my work is to get people to think about the epiphanies they’ve had and how to cultivate epiphanies in their lives. The process ends up being incredibly powerful.”
After conducting her analyses of the stories she has recorded, Elise concludes that every epiphany included what I’ll call, in a moment of movie drama, the Four Horseman of the Epiphany:
- Listening – People were listening and paying attention to the signs.
- Belief – When they had one, they never doubted its significance.
- Action – Every person whose epiphany changed their life took action.
- Serendipity – (I love this one) After people began to take action, circumstances seemed to fall into place so that they could take the next step. “It is as if the world conspires to support your decision.” Many writers including Randy Gage and Paulo Coelho, have written about how the universe participates in your passion. Elise reveals those moments of crisis, the instant of change, the decisions of faith and lucidity that move our souls.
The Take-Away for Women In Business
I’ve noticed that in all of the women whom I’ve interviewed for this series, there is one recurring quality, that of resiliency. It seems once these inspiring women decide upon a direction, they are not easily deterred and weather storms knowing it will get better. Elise had an interesting take on the recurrent aspects of her stories when it came to women.
“More women than men would say, ‘I don’t think I’ve had an epiphany,’ and then they would come back to me and say, ‘You know, I do think I’ve had one’ and sometimes they were the most profound and we were both crying.” So why is that?
“I’ve discussed this with a lot of people and there are many different theories but sometimes women are super busy and meeting everyone else’s needs and because their time is in demand they just keep going and they’re not paying attention to what these moments meant for them. Also, they are sometimes much more emotional and we’ve been taught that that’s not okay.” However, Doctor Bill Magee says, “…while reason leads you to a conclusion, it’s emotion that moves you to action.”
“The most triumphant people I interviewed, those who had been wildly successful in business or achieved world prestige or we would all know their names or they were extremely wealthy; they knew exactly what their greatest epiphany in life was. They knew the whole story. They had carried it with them and always looked to it as a source of inspiration and remembered always what it meant to them as they got older, as they grew, how the meaning of the story deepens over time. It’s amazing.”
I highly recommend this book. There are so many stories told from different perspectives of faith, calling, business, family, and understanding that you can’t help but have one touch you. This book should be given as a gift, particularly around holidays and the first of the year when we all tend to be more reflective. Elise encourages people to share their epiphanies and build upon this global community of the wisdom that is thrust upon us in the moment of insight.
Elise plans on putting out more of these books, perhaps in smaller versions, such as Epiphanies of Love, Epiphanies About Business, or Epiphanies About Motherhood, in addition to the television and film version of the project that are being discussed. If you have a story of your own or wish to share one with Elise, please visit the Epiphany Channel and share it with the world.
Whether your epiphany is a sudden white light or a warm glow whose fire you fuel through action, they are the moments that shape our destiny. Most of us have already had them, we just need to let them in. “You can’t control epiphanies but you can cultivate a lot by purposely being open to life. Enjoy them. Welcome them.”