Winter Bulletin: 2021
| insight + epiphany |
"The goal is to move from just knowledge, which is information, to understanding, which is awareness."
— Quote from Dr. Oz, article by Elise Ballard on epiphany, Psychology Today-Jan 25, 2011.
What constitutes an epiphany in your world?
I was raised Catholic near Chicago. Roman Catholicism was so ingrained in the culture on the Southside, you identified yourself by which “parish” you attended instead of a physical location, even if you weren’t Catholic. My family lived in Holy Redeemer Parish, Evergreen Park. Can't believe that was over 50 years ago!
The church festival of Epiphany celebrates the story of the 3 wise men or Magi visiting the baby Jesus, God made manifest. They bring gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. While there is a great deal to unpack in the symbolism of this story, I feel what is most touching is the extravagance of the gifts and the ritual itself: a radical act of love.
I recently heard in a (remote) sermon at my church an alternative translation for the word Magi as Magians. These Magians were not kings at all but Persian Zoroastrian priests, a common pagan religion of the time still followed today in areas of Iran and India. While these men may have been wise, they chiefly were astronomers with some great intel from a powerful king, following a great star and their intuition that surely a star so brilliant must be the harbinger of some good news.
While this shed some light on the church holiday, pun intended, it also stoked my curiosity about the origin of the word epiphany. Its Greek roots suggest a divine appearance or manifestation. My Inner Lighthouse is all about manifesting so a newsletter topic was born. What better time than the new year to think about epiphanies, the official end of Advent?!
What’s made you stop in your tracks lately? Any aha moments? I believe that epiphanies are more than just moments of wonder and awakening. More than a speed dial from your soul to your heart nudging you to open your eyes, to stop and smell the roses. It’s your soul saying, “Yes! The roses are always here! In fact, did you know that you are the master gardener of your own life?”
Back in March, the masters told me the pandemic was a time for getting priorities in order. Well, that makes sense, I thought. It made me step back and take stock. What really wasn’t working for me? How am I getting in my own way? I took off the blinders for a bit and delved into deeper mindfulness practices, like centering prayer, Lectio Divina and just plain staring out the window at the water. For the first time in a long while, I got very still. The ensuing months slowly brought on a radical shift in what I wanted my work to entail and how I needed to change my life. Wait, check that. How I needed to transform my life.
It is difficult to bring about deep change in your life when you simply don’t have the awareness that you need to do it, let alone any ideas on how best to go about it. In other words, when you don’t know what you don’t know. Real, lasting change goes beyond improving bad habits or looking for deep-set patterns. It goes to where our individual behaviors butt up to or operate within the larger and broader context of society. The social constructs. What’s a construct? It’s the scaffolding that we [read: humans, societies, systems] build, support, and walk amidst in our daily life. It’s the invisible architecture of our culture that allows us to digest life and make meaning of it.
But here’s the thing: constructs are built for the “winners” in our society. In any society. I should know. I'm a winner. They are often built by those who aren’t at the top of the food chain. That is to say, that constructs work for us, for some of us, until they don’t. That’s what happens when the reality of life crashes through the construct like it’s made of matchsticks. A construct is an illusion, after all. Case in point: witnessing the execution of George Floyd.
There is no debate of facts or opinions or truthiness here. We get a crash course in Reality 101 because at some level, albeit it may be subconsciously, we realize we are more than a part of the architecture. We are the architecture. At least, as a privileged white woman, that is how I feel. This is why-and when-tipping points tip. Watching a man’s life slowly drain away on the concrete below the knee of a police officer. This was a personal 2019 aha moment for me. (For more of my personal reckoning on this, please read my blog here: "I pray George Floyd is the tipping point")
When things get really hard in life, it is Spirit’s way of knocking on the door to say, there is an easier way to go about things. When an epidemic breaks out, I’ve gotta believe Spirit is pounding the door, the door to life, as if to say, “The golden rule. It takes a village? Remember, this is called sacred wisdom for a reason!”
I remember being 4, maybe 5 years old in the back of our family Buick, slowing down as my parents drove by a small house on our block.The front picture window of the home was blown apart and there was debris everywhere. Something about a brick and an explosive. I stared as they gossiped. What happened? I asked what happened but that didn't help. I heard the words Jew and mob but I didn't know what a jew or a mob was. I thought Holy Redeemer was a safe place for us to live.
Here's what is going through my mind right now:
Is it possible for the world to experience an aha moment, in unison?
I saw pockets of them when I watched the televised applause for healthcare workers at 7 PM in US cities or with the chorus of pots and pans clanging in Italy. These glimpses bring hope! If we are to heal one another, to save ourselves, then transformation is more than necessary. It’s survival. At least it is for the climate of the planet that we live upon.
Let’s each do our part: out with the old, the outdated, and the downright inhumane. Let's make a concerted effort beyond ourselves by looking within ourselves to discern how are each part of the system, this intricate web. There are lots of solutions, lots of ways to find the Way.
Triggers can be positive too. We can create positive patterns. This is our collective work. As John Lennon once chanted, let's "give peace a chance."
Maybe epiphanies have a way of knocking down the dead branches in an antiquated worldview. That’s what it felt like for me when I posted my blog on George Floyd. Sharing my personal story and vulnerable views on social media can be crazy scary. It’s not comfortable to open your heart and let the voice out. It may not be the truth but it was my truth. It wasn’t easy to engage in Facebook conversations with those who opposed my viewpoint and truly listen to where they were coming from. To reply back to say, "I hear you." To respond and not react. But it did feel compassionate; like I was doing something. And sometimes doing something can make a small difference in the world. It felt brave.
The night is darkest before the dawn. Thoreau once said, “If a person does not keep pace with their companions, perhaps it is because they hear a different drummer.” If an entire nation is listening to a different drummer, can we try and listen together?
When’s the last time you had a real epiphany? Did you share it with a friend? What do you want to see in your own local community? These are my ruminations as I look out at Canada from my dinette window. Oh, wait. Canada. National borders.
Now that’s a construct worth further exploration. ^_^
What was your greatest lesson in 2020?
What “star” guides your path?
Has your life pivoted in unexpected ways due to the pandemic? Can this be transformative for you?