Elise Ballard: Have an Epiphany!
Jonathan: Hey everyone, Jonathan Bailor back with another bonus Smarter Science to Slim podcast and you know, over here at The Smarter Science of Slim we’re all about eating smarter, exercising smarter, living better also empowering others and today’s guest is very unique in the sense of living better, empowering others and even just sharing some stories relating to diet and exercise because this is a woman who wears many hats, all of which are quite spectacular.
She’s an author, an actress, a speaker, a filmmaker, the creator of epiphanychannel.com. The author of the wonderful book Epiphany, and the curator of some of the most inspirational stories around dramatic life altering change taking place in a moment, otherwise, known as an epiphany and Elise Ballard is here to share with us what are epiphanies. How we can potentially have more of them, and how they’ve impacted on others’ lives, and how they might be able to benefit us. Elise, welcome to the show.
Elise: Well, thank you so much Jonathan. I appreciate you having me.
Jonathan: Well Elise, let’s just jump right into it here. This is a very unique project, your book, Epiphany and your website Epiphany Channel is, to best of my knowledge, the only source of collection of epiphany stories. So, one; what inspired you to do it, two; what the heck is an epiphany story. Three; why should we care?
Elise: That’s all very good, they’re loaded. They’re loaded. Yes, I call myself I’m an accidental epiphany expert. I think you’re right.
Jonathan: Is that a word on a pessimist?
Elise: I think we need to make it up. I put down the dictionary. What happened is basically the short story is, I was an actress and a filmmaker as you pointed out and I had an epiphany that drastically changed my life and when I had the epiphany, I didn’t go, “Oh my gosh, I just had an epiphany.” What happened is several weeks later when my life was drastically different, I looked around and went, “How did I get here?” and my mind flashback like a movie to this one instant, this one millisecond and I went, “Wait. I had an epiphany. That is what they talk about when you talk about someone having an epiphany.”
So I started asking all these people. “Do you think you’ve ever had an epiphany?” just my friends and colleagues and I was a doing documentary work. I come out of doing this sort of what I call “Gorilla Filmmaking” where it’s me and a camera where I’m interviewing people and I did a little movie called Lord of the Wien’s, a documentary about the Wiener dog races in Peta, Texas that kind of had its own cult following. I started getting hired to do this kind of work behind the scenes so I started asking questions to people I know, “What do you think you’re greatest epiphany in life has been?” and that’s how the project started. That’s why a lot of the epiphany stories that you mentioned are on epiphanychannel.com and they are filmed because I’m still filming as many of them as I can. Basically, that is how the whole thing started and an epiphany, by definition, is a moment of sudden or great revelation and because I’m asking everyone about their greatest epiphanies in life, the ones that have had the biggest impact on them.
I define it as a moment of sudden or great revelation that usually changes your life in some way but an epiphany, by definition, could be those smaller ones, you know, the “ah ha” moment things that people talk about. They don’t have to be necessarily some huge life changing thing but yes, that is what I have been collecting the biggest life changing ones in people’s lives and because I am a story teller and they are usually very dramatic and very personal stories and they’re entertaining, interesting and as you pointed out extremely inspirational.
Jonathan: Elise, the thing that I really wanted, I mean obviously, I wanted to have you on the show for many reasons but one of the reasons that really stuck with me is I’ve noticed in the area of, just like you said, in any area of life but especially an area of change that so many people struggle with which is their health.
Often times we hear stories and this was my personal experience where, you might watch infomercial do this, you might pick up a book, you do this because your doctor tells you but at the end of the day almost always it has been my observation that if you ask someone who has successfully reversed their diabetes or overcome a great way difficulty or overcome a psychological difficulty. They can point to a few moments where there was emotional and mental shift that they could no longer deny and that sounds a lot like an epiphany.
Elise: Yeah. Yeah. Well, in my case when I have the epiphany that set me on this trajectory that, you know, so when I started collecting all these stories and like I said I’m like have become this accidental expert in epiphanies. My thing was I was an actress and I was playing a role. In doing research for the role, hours and hours of research. I was in an unhappy marriage at the time and had been for years but I couldn’t seem to extricate myself from the relationship. Which I was stuck in life which so many of us find ourselves stuck in certain situations whatever they may be.
In my case, in this particular case, it was a relationship and it was a marriage that was a big deal but this research I did for this role. So I’d gotten information and education about fertility and about adoption because I was playing a woman who wanted to have a baby with her husband and she finds out she’s infertile and then she finds out that her husband has cheated on her and had a one night stand and gets that woman pregnant. At the end of the play, she goes to the woman and hands her an adoption brochure and they end up adopting the baby in the play. So I was charged with researching this and I said, I will get this adoption brochure. My epiphany came after days and weeks of playing this role and in the rehearsals and then doing the research.
I printed the adoption brochure and while I was waiting for that brochure to print out and it was coming towards me, I have the thought, I could do that, I don’t have to stay. I realized what was really keeping me in that marriage was a deep seated fear that I was not facing that I might never have a biological child of my own if I left and I realized that there was a myriad of ways to become a parent in this day and age and that was no reason to stay in an unhappy marriage, for me. So that freed me in that instant I felt like a weight snapped free from my body and I was able to start changing my life when I’d been unable to.
Now, my point in bringing that up is it was the research and the education and I always say knowledge and education will help you, anything you’re scared of, regardless look in your life and you’re stuck, you start looking around, “What am I scared of?” What is it and you start finding everything you can, listening to podcast like yours, getting books, you know watching shows whatever you can do to get that information and like you said, suddenly one day, it will all come together. There will be a shift and when I talk about the four things that I found from doing hundreds of interviews, there are four things that happen when anyone has a life changing epiphany.
Jonathan: So, this is really quick before we jump to that. I want to jump into all four of those because I think this is so foundational and we didn’t plan this interview and it’s this way. I love to not plan them because you have just said so many things that have blown my mind. If we did plan this, I don’t think it could have worked out any better because what you just said, what I heard at least, correct me if I’m wrong, is that if we want this profound change that can happen in an instant, that doesn’t happen by accident.
This is something which, when we focus our mind and we continuously put ourselves in an environment and a situation that can lead both our conscious and subconscious mind, it can feed it with information. We do have this gradual conscious knowledge that builds up whether it be scientific literature or any other kind of literature but then one day, it seems like there’s something that happens on a much more visceral level, which is you almost reach a tipping point or like you unleash the dam and things just burst through, is that a reasonable encapsulation of what you just said?
Elise: Yeah, well, it will tie into the four things that I am talking about. You know what’s really interesting about life changing epiphanies are that you cannot force them. You cannot say, it’s a very interesting phenomenon that way but like in science, they can create problem solving epiphanies, right? Or creative epiphanies. They can actually measure people’s brains and see what’s happening but on these life changing epiphanies, they cannot put people in a room and force them to happen, however, there are four things that I discovered that happen every single time, so what you can do is cultivate yourself and cultivate your life so that you can cultivate epiphanies, that you can prepare, that you can get ready for them.
The first thing that always happens when anyone’s having a life changing epiphany is that they’re listening, they’re paying attention, they’re open to these moments for whatever reason and to your point that the people constantly are saying that it took like several things to happen before they finally listened or they paid attention. When I talk about this listening thing it’s all over the map.
I’ve interviewed people, they were in prayer or meditation when they had their greatest life epiphany, people that were struggling, facing life threatening illness and something they were in absolute crisis which could mean even the death of a loved one and the other thing is people sometimes won’t have their life changing epiphany until they’re facing a crisis that may be they’ve brought on themselves and then finally, they’ll listen but for whatever reason, people are open.
They are listening. They’re paying attention so you can cultivate that in your life. You can cultivate ways of listening to your inner voice, to yourself, to people around you, paying attention to the world around you. There are ways to do all of that. I am sure that you have tons of information about that but we can go over that as well and then the second thing that always happen when someone has a life changing epiphany is they’re listening, they’re open to these moments and then they have this unshakeable belief in the moment and what it means to them, no matter how nuts it might seem to anybody else or even to our own rational minds, they believe what it means to them, yes?
The third thing that always will happen is that the person always took action on the epiphany. You can, by definition again, an epiphany is a moment of sudden or great revelation, so you can have an epiphany. I talked to a few people that had a moment of sudden or great revelation they knew was an epiphany, they got it, they believed it, but they did not take action on it and therefore, it did not change their life in any way yet but most everyone I talk to at least it’s in my book, they’ve taken action on these and usually that means taking the very first baby step, having no idea what the second step is going to be but you take that first step and then what happens is what I call coming into play a lot of times is what I referred to as serendipity.
You can refer to it as synchronicity but it is like circumstances seem to fall into place and it’s as if the world is saying, “Yes, this is right for you. Yes keep going” and you take that second step and the third step and the fourth step is revealed and pretty soon you’re on this path that this epiphany had set you on and you start learning how to listen, to believe in yourself, to believe in how life works, to believe in these moments of revelation. You start practicing taking action in life and then you trust and you look for and you’re excited about and grateful for the serendipity that happens in your life because all of us have this.
All of us have a birth right to epiphanies, no matter who you are, no matter how old you are, no matter what you’re doing, no matter what you’re belief system is. I interviewed everybody from atheist to religious leaders and everybody in between. It doesn’t matter, we all have epiphanies and all of this is our birth right and it’s just a matter of being open to it and developing these four qualities of life. Which look everybody’s talking about it. I’m sure you’ve had people on here, they’re talking about these things and ways to do this in your life.
What’s happened with me as the accidental epiphany expert is that I was telling these stories. I was bringing these stories forth because I found them interesting, dramatic, entertaining, as well as they were helping me dramatically in my life. They’re very inspirational and they contain some of our greatest wisdom and in sharing them, you’re sharing your wisdom and we’re helping each other be able to use this wisdom in our own life so we don’t have to go through it.
I just want people to understand that we all have these epiphanies and they are a tool that we all can use in our lives and that a lot of times, they’re over looked and we’re not realizing that we have these moments that are stories that we can rely on and use as wisdom and inspiration every day of our lives that we’re not honoring. That’s what really what we’re talking about here honoring these moments and then cultivating in our lives.
The most successful people I spoke with, if you want to talk about worldly prestige and fame and money and all of that, every single one of those people knew exactly right off to the bat what their greatest epiphany in life was. They knew all the details of it. They had been using it ever since they had it as a tool to build their life upon, so they’re really valuable things we all have access too.
Jonathan: Elise, this is wonderful, just to make sure I got it. I want to make sure I got the four components here and then I want to get your thoughts on something. The first one is that we’re listening, we’re paying attention, we’re open so that we don’t miss it if one of these moments happen. Correct me if I’m wrong at any point in time here, the second is we do have an unshakeable belief in that moment, what it means to us, and because we have that unshakeable belief. We then take the third step, which is to take action on that step because again, we believe in it so deeply and we listen to it in the first place and the fourth step is not just we continue to take action or we follow through?
Elise: Well, the serendipity that comes into play, obviously, that’s nothing we force but what I encourage people to do is notice what happens. Most of the time like I said 99 percent of the time people takes the first step when they have a life changing epiphany. Like in my case, I had been in this marriage for eight years and all I did was go and look on Craigslist for sublets for weeks, you know what I mean and then I finally saw one that I emailed and then that one happened to be the one that I did and that lead me on a whole new trajectory that’s a novel I just wrote. Do you know what I mean?
Elise: So, the serendipity and what I want to encourage people to do and every story has it. Every story that I tell in this book and that is on the website and then I will probably talk about in a minute some of them, serendipities occurrences happened that we all have synchronicity, weird things fall into place and you’re like, “Oh” and then they took a step on that and then the next thing happen in the next thing and what the tool is there, yes you’re right, is to take action when the next thing falls into place for you.
I think it really helps to be excited and grateful and to notice it and embrace it and be like, “Oh my gosh, isn’t this so cool.” There’s a guy in my book, Orion Williams and like I said every single person had this happen in their life but Orion is a person who had so much of this kind of synchronistic stuff happen that he was so excited about and acted, took major action on it whatever it happened and the exact incident happened and I kept hearing it over and over again but when you get like that, it happens more and your life just gets more exciting.
Jonathan: Oh, absolutely Elise and the thing that I’ve found about your four steps and what you’re sharing here, it’s hit so close to home with me personally and I won’t get into my personal epiphany I will save that for another show but just even for our listeners, a lot of the people who I hear who do have these dramatic, we generally focus on physical health but we also talk about mental health quite a bit.
There’s this moment where often there’s a realization for step one is listening, where people they are listening to podcast, they’re reading books, they’re doing some research and they realize doing what I’ve always done will result in the same thing I’ve always gotten and there’s this moment of cognitive dissonance which they grasp on to and say, “I can’t just keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” right?
Einstein’s definition of sanity and then they say, “Yes” and they embrace that because they may have had it happen previously but they never really just like, “Well, whatever that infomercial is quite convincing, I’ll try that pill” and then they’ll take action. Listeners, if you are fortunate enough to have an epiphany within a couple of weeks of listening to this podcast or God’s willing, this podcast is the one that makes you have an epiphany, then the action I recommend all of us take because it’s easy and it’s concrete and it is satisfying as hell is, I want you to physically destroy your scale.
I want that to be your first action. I want you to literary take your scale out into your backyard into your street back it over with your car and say, “I’m no longer going to be judged by the number on that scale” and then continue to notice as you feel and look better because you will and Elise, I know you have some wonderful examples of people doing something similar in your book, would you mind sharing those with us?
Elise: Yes and I love the whole scale thing. “Yeah, I’m throwing out my scale!” I never get on it anyway.
Jonathan: It’s also one of those funny visceral things too. It’s like tearing up a piece of paper or burning something and you get to get some aggression out too like teach that scale who’s boss.
Elise: Yeah, yeah. It’s physicalizing. It’s like a ritual and we need these as humans but I have the greatest epiphany story that is so like what you were just saying and it’s about a woman who actually is all to do with weight and conquering her diabetes. Her name is Nancy Ballard and I got her through another referral and she’s not related to me but she ended up being from Texas and I’m from Texas, so anyway that’s serendipity. Nancy has this amazing story. She’d struggle with obesity her entire life and she’s filmed on my website. You can go hear her talk about this as well but basically, she had been obese her entire life, struggling off and on with her weight. She would lose 100 pounds but then gain it back on and on. I think she was at 300 pounds at this time in her life. She’s a nurse. She knew all the physical ramification. She was on five diabetes medications at this time. She happened to be at home one day.
She never watches television. She said she just want a whim that she turned on the television, it happened to be Oprah, it happened to be a show of obese women who had lost significant amount of weight, so she goes on to watch this. She started watching and then as she said, as the show is going on she goes, “Oh yeah. I know. I did that. I did that. Yes. Yes.” Like you were saying the stuff that you’ve always heard and that you know and that you’ve done over and over.
It never really worked and then Oprah asked the woman that was on, she’d lost 160 pounds, and she said to the woman, “How did you do it?” and the woman said “One day, I put on my tennis shoes and I tied them and I went on a walk” and Nancy said in that moment she went “I can do that” and she said before that time she had never said, “I can do that” she said “I should do that. I wish I could do that.I want to do that” she said, “I can do that” and she went and got her tennis shoes, put them on, tied them and walked out the door for 30 minutes and then walked back 30 minutes and she said when she walked in the door, she knew her life had changed forever and she started eating differently and she started walking and she lost 140 pounds that year and she is off all of her medication, has never had to go back and she has kept the weight off and, there’s a lot more that goes into it but that’s the gist of it.
Jonathan: Elise, I think that you said a lot more goes into it and that is certainly true but I also want to praise and highlight the simplicity there because there is a key step there, right? Like she probably walked before and she probably, like you said, she tried to lose weight before but before she never had that deep, almost a religious experience about saying this is about something more.
This is about something deeper. I often, we’re talking about eating experiences like most people if they chose to become a vegetarian or a vegan, which is not personally what my lifestyle is but these people don’t just do it because they want to like lose weight. They do it because maybe they have an epiphany. They watch some visceral thing that gets them all round up and they’re like, “No more. I’m just never going to eat meat again” like in one moment there’s a not going to do it anymore.
Elise: I will say Nancy has a strong faith in God so she had prayed, so she felt like too that she had given a certain way that she prayed was different than she never done it before so I will say that for the listeners who have faith in the Divine that there was that element to it and before she had that but you know it goes into this listening thing. She was open and listening and what someone else said affected her and that’s why I want to encourage people to really practice their listening, deep listening.
We are losing that skill. We’re so bombarded. Do you know what I mean with technology and advertising, just our world is so speed up to really be with who you are talking to, really listen, paying attention to the world around you and getting your mind quiet and that’s when you can really hear things that will affect you and perhaps change your life.
Jonathan: Elise, I think really the key there is that these moments of meaningful change are meaningful, meaning if you’re watching an infomercial or you just see an ad in a magazine and you’re like, “Ah, I’ll try that” like if your attitude is, “Okay, hmm. I’ll try that might as well nothing else seems to work, huh” like that can’t work. That’s not like this basic human psychology, something that you’re not really committed too, something that you don’t feel in your bones that’s never going to work out but by paying attention, by really feeling is also what I hear you saying is all by really having the ability to feel and embrace that emotion when it comes over you that can really push you forward for an entire lifetime.
Elise: Yeah, it’s true. In fact, I’m reading this book called the Seven Thousand Ways to Listen by a Mark Nepo, I think is his last name. The whole thing is about how to listen on a deeper level and he did. He said to listen with feeling. It’s the difference and it’s the first step in having all of this happen and there’s another epiphany in my book by a doctor named Dr. Michael Roizen and he did the books with Dr. Oz called You, I don’t know if you know those books. Do you know those books?
Jonathan: You on a diet. You on that.
Elise: Exactly and I did the videos with those guys, so Dr. Oz is in my book as well and his whole epiphany is about how to listen. His whole epiphany is about how his whole life changed and his whole perspective and the way he practice medicine that has led him on this whole trajectory, it was about the way he listened to people from their world perspective. Oz says, “We all are our best physician. We all know what’s going on with us.” Again, you must listen to yourself. You must listen to your body then communicate that to a doctor but the best doctor’s listen to you and they’re teachers so they really get you to self-heal.
You take the medicine and you do this stuff so, it’s all about listening from other people’s world perspective to get them to understand and for everybody to be incommunicado. Roizen is his partner on this You book and so I produced the exercise videos that they did for the You books. So, Roizen was one of the first people that I interviewed actually behind the scenes before I got this going and his epiphany was so interesting to me that they kind of kept, sparked the whole thing to keep going but he had this whole epiphany about…
Basically, it’s the basis for all their work with this thing he started called Real Age and the summary of his epiphany is, we can actually control our genes and change our bodies and lives on a cellular level, simply through our actions. We can literally change our genes through our actions we’re proving now. Do you know what I mean? We can change it from and people, I think he said you know before we have this thing all over born with this.
No, we can change most things and I think people aren’t aware of that. They don’t realize how powerful it is but it takes work. It takes you getting in the mind set, taking action in your life, doing inner work, developing these muscles of belief and taking action and doing the right things in life, taking action to make yourself healthier but you can absolutely change your genes and change your life and they never knew that before. This is all cutting edge science.
Jonathan: Elise the thing that you said earlier, there are two components and I think you capture them really well and I think oftentimes it may be a source of confusion for people because they think it’s one or the other and I think what we’re talking about here is it’s both. Let me describe what I mean. So, you’re talking about this first that was very listening like it is actually externally focused.
You listen to things that are happening in the outside world but then you bring that into your inner world and you do that inner work, so there’s an external stimulus but then the burden, for lack of better terms, the work, the responsibility is on you to take that and feel it and think about it and meditate on it and concentrate on it and to take action upon it so that if you don’t do either one of those. If you just stay within yourself your entire life, well that’s not going to work out and if you contently are looking outside of yourself exclusively for what to do, I mean, this is why we see people. They do this and then they do this and they take this pill and they try this diet and they do this because they’re only looking externally, so it sounds like you’ve got to do both the external and the internal and then integrate them.
Elise: Yeah, that’s exactly right and the one thing that, one of the ways to be a good listener is you have to find ways to quiet your mind. I think it’s so interesting that I’m the one that’s done this project and I found this to be true because I am the worst about that and really I am the worst about it so that’s probably why I’ve been on this trajectory chosen or whatever to found myself on this because it’s what I needed to learn and there are different ways for everyone, I believe, to find ways that quiet your mind but unless you can get quiet in your mind and find ways to do that, you can’t hear and honor that inner voice. Like Dr. Oz said, you know what’s going on.
You’ve got to be quiet and pay attention to be able to communicate that and those instances but our inner voice, everyone has one and you’ve got to listen to it. It’s your inner guidance and it’s not a religious thing. Like I said, I’ve talked to people who are atheist, agnostic, to the most religious and they all talk about this inner voice that is really what they get in touch with when we have an epiphany too and, “Have I listened to my inner voice?”
One of the lessons I learned from doing, now I say this project is my greatest epiphany in life for a myriad of reasons but it is and I know exactly the moments where it became my greatest epiphany but one of the things that I do now because of it is that when I have the inner voice or that inner knowing telling me what to do even if it may not be right on paper, right? Like other people would think it was crazy or even I think it’s crazy or maybe not crazy but I just don’t have the proof that that’s the best way to go, so to speak, but my gut is telling me. I listen to it because every time I haven’t done it, it’s not the right thing in the most successful people.
That is what they’re doing. They are guided by their gut, by their inner voice and the goal here guys is to get quiet enough that we can start paying attention and honoring that voice and acting with that as guidance and as you said also taking an outer stimulus because we’re living in such an exciting time with all this information out there that we can use now but if you don’t have an inner calm to disseminate it and figure out what’s fit for you, it’s just like you said, you’ll find yourself on a treadmill.
Jonathan: Elise, its two things. I almost just want to add on the podcast right now because that was very beautiful but there were a couple of things that we’ve got to cover and one is this wonderful quote I think, which relates to what you just said and I’m going to paraphrase it here but I believe it was by Blaise Pascal and Blaise said that, “All of humanities problems stem from our inability to sit in a room alone quietly” and I think that speaks to the fact many hundreds of years ago or whenever Blaise Pascal was alive thousands of years, I don’t know history.
That problem has always existed and also you made a point about this doesn’t have to be a religious thing, this isn’t a ‘woo-woo’ thing and for any listeners I called The Smarter Science of Slim, we’re all about science. If you would like to prove to yourself that this isn’t ‘woo-woo’, go to some research in Quantum Mechanics and you will see, I’m talking of research like don’t read…research that area and you will come to start to see just how much science there is backing this super-conscious awareness. It’s quite fascinating.
Elise: I’m so glad you’re saying that. There were several epiphanies in the book. They’re in the miracle section but just because miracle by definition is something that’s inexplicable by natural law as we know it but Quantum Physics would explain both of them, the two that I’m thinking of. Do you know what I mean?
Elise: That was another interesting thing about the epiphany stories. I’ve a lot of scientist in different areas of science in the book as I talked about the doctors but I also have like psychologist and other researchers and it’s very true. A lot of this stuff proves it’s not impossible with Quantum Physics, the step that they talk about.
Jonathan: I love it. Well, Elise, this is good stuff and certainly we’ve only scratched the surface here and certainly I want to thank you for… I bet you’ve spurred people to have their own epiphanies just by understanding and seeing your work, so I think that’s fabulous. I think what you’re doing is wonderful and folks, if you want to learn more about Elise, again, her name is Elise Ballard, and her website is epiphanychannel.com and it’s constantly evolving and growing.
It’s a great source for inspiration and also education and she has also written a wonderful book by my publisher as well, Harper Collins, called Epiphany. Elise, this has been just an absolute joy. What’s next for you?
Elise: Well, I just wrote a novel actually and so, we’ll see what happens with that and I’m working on the documentary of Epiphany and different web shows and reality shows and so, we’ll see what happens next for the next moment of Epiphany but we’re about to do another stage at the website so there’ll be different content coming up and I’m still interviewing people. Yes, if anybody wants to send in their greatest epiphanies in life, you can do that on the website as well. You can share your epiphany with us.
Jonathan: I love it. Well Elise, if you ever want to hear the story of how a Microsoft Engineer had an epiphany that changed his life completely into working to solve one the greatest crisis that our culture currently faces, that’s the diabetes epidemic, I’ll be happy to tell you mine.
Elise: I definitely want to hear it. Oh my gosh, we should have done a whole podcast just hearing your epiphany.
Jonathan: Maybe we’ll have you back on the show.
Elise: Yeah, definitely though I love to hear it when you have time. Thank you so much for having me on. It was really fun and let me know if you ever have any questions.
Jonathan: Alright. Thank you so much Elise.
Elise: Alright. Take care. Thanks so much.
Jonathan: Thank you and listeners, I hope you enjoy today’s show as much as I did and certainly this week and every week after remember, eat smarter, exercise smarter, and live better. Talk with you soon.