What is Epiphany, Anyway?
Sometimes it seems like spiritual life is all about waiting and hoping for insight, for an epiphany.
We believe contemplative practices help us get out of our own way and hear the wisdom of spiritual life. As we take time to breathe deeply and listen to sacred stillness we allow ourselves to hear deep truths.
Some of us are convinced our thinking is primary to spiritual life. We read and research and work to reason our way to fresh insights. Spiritual life is like a puzzle waiting to be solved.
I know people who are certain spiritual life is essentially an analytical undertaking.
Other people experience spiritual life as primarily emotional. They may not think much about spiritual life but they know how spiritual life feels. When they experience spiritual life it is affective. They feel comforted or loved or belonging.
For some people spiritual life is primarily physical. They experience spiritual life when they are walking or running, lying in the sun or practicing yoga. Physical activity allows them to see things in new ways and find new insights. Spiritual life exists for them in relationship to their physical health and bodies.
Each of us seeks spiritual insights and illumination in our own unique ways. We may be open to trying new approaches or practices even when we think we know what works best for us.
Contemplative practices are based in our understanding spiritual life is working in us whatever we do. We may be more comfortable with our thinking or our physical activity. Spiritual life lives in us no matter how we understand or experience it.
If spiritual life is always with us, what is this epiphany we are hoping and waiting to experience?
A Season of Epiphany
I am a member of a liturgical church. When we get together we remember our story and we share a meal.
Epiphany is the liturgical season which follows the twelve days of Christmas. It begins on the morning after Twelfth Night. During Epiphany we remind ourselves through our shared story spiritual life is manifest in our everyday lives.
Epiphany is about how the world and everyone in it reveals spiritual life and our everyday lives are inseparable.
Each moment reveals how spiritual life is woven into the fabric of our everyday lives. They cannot be torn apart.
Wherever we look spiritual life makes itself known to us. Whether we are walking on the beach along the ocean, hiking a trail in a forest, rocking in a chair looking out over mountains, or watching snow or rain fall, our story carries us forward. Sun and stars, clouds and wind, stone and earth and plants and animals, light and dark; the primal elements draw us toward deeply sacred truths.
The voice of sacred stillness is in the sound of flowing water, the rain on the roof, the rhythm of our footsteps. We recognize the face of spiritual life as we watch the light of a candle or the sun coming above the horizon. Spiritual life is in the sun on our skin and in a warm embrace. Its fragrance is in the aroma of fresh air and of fresh, warm bread. We taste spiritual life in an excellent meal, well-crafted brews, and the bread and the wine we share.
Epiphany reminds us to stop, breathe, and remember the sacred which infuses our everyday life.
We practice Epiphany when we take time to listen and pay attention.
I experience Epiphany as the lights coming on, as illumination and enlightenment. It is as if we sit in the dark hoping for insight and when it arrives the lightbulb starts to shine.
For a long time I was convinced spiritual life was almost exclusively analytical. If I could just sort out the pieces of my questions I knew I could think my way to an answer.
I spent a long time in the dark with only the focused laser of analysis to light my path. I stumbled often before I realized there were more sources of light, more ways to find Epiphany.
We limit ourselves because we often convince ourselves we already know what we need to know. It is impossible for us to see what is waiting for us in the dark because we choose to see in only one way.
Opening ourselves to Epiphany opens our eyes to more ways of seeing, more illumination.
We practice Epiphany as we open ourselves to ways of seeing which may be less familiar to us.
Each epiphany we experience shows us new ways of seeing and gives us new insight into deep truths.
How Will We Practice Epiphany?
Our epiphanies are not limited to the liturgical season of Epiphany.
Liturgical churches often become caught up in traditions and history. There seems to be a sense of doing things the same way each year because it is how they have always been done.
Epiphany, shedding new light and new insight, is almost an antidote to maintaining traditions.
Each year, each season, each day is filled with new insights and new illumination for us. Our experiences, the people we meet, our thoughts and emotions, spark new epiphanies for us.
We practice Epiphany by not allowing ourselves to fall into established habits and ways of thinking. Developing ways to practice Epiphany may be unlike other spiritual practices. Each epiphany illuminates new possibilities.
Our practice of Epiphany is not about developing consistency or regularity every day. Each day is unique and holds insights of its own.
We practice Epiphany by appreciating how spiritual life is woven into our everyday lives. Each experience is a new insight, a new window into deep wisdom.
As we wait and hope for illumination and insight the lightbulb comes on in a new epiphany.
How will we practice Epiphany today?
Where will Epiphany shed new light for us this year?
[Image by dolbinator1000]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com, and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.