The Problem with Epiphanies- Tales of a Recovering Epiphany Addict

Comments Off on The Problem with Epiphanies- Tales of a Recovering Epiphany Addict Written on March 25th, 2013 by
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I am a recovering epiphany addict.  I know that sounds dirty and dramatic, but it’s the squalid truth. I can’t get enough of them. Until recently, if a new insight wasn’t setting my life on fire in some new and fabulous direction, I’d be lost, desperately groping around in the dark, praying for some new understanding to expose itself.

In my 20’s, I had a new one every other day. It was a revolving door of epiphanies.  I had epiphanies in Pilates, in the bathroom at the Guggenheim, even while reading the Celestine Prophecy on the subway. (Okay, that was an embarrassing admission. My standards were low and I had a sheltered suburban childhood, what can I say.)

I love the high, the moment of discovering everything I’d ever known was utter crap.  My thirst for revelations was insatiable. I’d take whatever came along, physical, mental, and emotional.  I’d be in yoga, and I’d discover, “Oh, THAT is what they really mean by get your upper arm bone back. Holy crap, this completely changes my practice!!”. Then I’d start shoving my upper arm bone to the back plane of my body with the force and excitement of a new cult member prosthelytizing for the first time.

Epiphanies, by definition, always involve things one already knows on some level, but rediscovers in a real or profound way. They feel utterly life changing.  They are the reason I keep teaching and taking yoga. I love watching that opening happen in my students as much as I enjoy experiencing it myself, “Well, for pete’s sake, You mean PUSH in the handstand. Not push, but PUSH! OOOOHHHHHH! Why didn’t you say so??” You wouldn’t think handstands are life changing, but they affect people more than one thinks they would.

  So what is my problem with these  fantastical phenomena?

The problem comes when you live for them, when everything else seems like a waste of time, when only the epiphany matters and not the in-between times.  The problem also comes when you get attached either to specific ones or to the idea of constant uninterrupted inspiration.  I am an expert in hanging onto and trying to perpetuate them.  Again, to use a physical example, I’d have moment where I would think “Aha! That is why my hamstrings keep getting pulled. I need to use my glutes more.” And then I’d work my butt like my life depended on it.  After a couple of weeks, my body would rebel and the action just wouldn’t work anymore.  The magic would stop. Tendons and joints would start to hurt again. I’d think there was something wrong with me or maybe it wasn’t truth that was revealed, that I was mistaken.

And yet, I was so sure at that moment that my practice was going to transform if I just repeated this one action over and over until I got it perfect. I’d get frustrated, wonder what I could do to get that feeling back, the feeling that I finally understood something, that feeling that I was on the right course.  But, there is no liberated ever after, like there is no happily ever after.  And yet I keep believing that the right understanding or set of circumstances will make everything clear. If everything would just STOP CHANGING FOR ONE DARN SECOND! I could get a handle on all this and get it right.

My practice actually works best when I start with the thought, “I am stuck and I have no idea what to do now.” I repeat that to myself over and over, then let my body and my mind tell me what to do. Sometimes it takes quite a while until anything actually happens. I might end up in down dog for ten minutes before any sense of what to do or where to go becomes apparent. Some days nothing at all really happens. I just stay stuck.  But eventually, with kindness and patience, something loosens and then something else bubbles up. The trick is to keep listening.

I’m getting better at it on the mat, but in life it is even harder. I don’t have the space and quiet I desperately need to hear. People are noisy and I am reactionary. I think I’ve understood something and then whoops! Nope, there I go again. And I’m back into being a hard ball. Okay, start over again. And again, and again. Moment by moment.

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