"Most of all, these stories have taught me to wonder at the magnificence and resilience of the human spirit."
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."