According to tradition, January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, marks the day the Magi found Jesus. In common parlance, an epiphany is a new insight - a shift in how we perceive things.
In the spirit of the season, and after some hesitation, I’ve decided to share two personal epiphanies I’ve experienced. As in the Magi story, these epiphanies have connected me more deeply to Jesus and to Christ Consciousness.
While my connection with the person of Jesus was strong during my eight years of preparation for Catholic priesthood, that sense of connection gradually faded after I left the seminary. I studied psychology, served in Vietnam, studied even more psychology and then immersed myself in the practice of psychotherapy. Though still spiritually orientated, I moved away from what I perceived as an overly self-sacrificial ethos at the center of the Christian message. I explored eastern and indigenous spirituality – and the mystics of various traditions.
About 20 years ago, I met Master Chunyi Lin and began the study of Spring Forest QiGong, a powerful approach for healing oneself and others. In Spring Forest practices, we are invited to identify a personal master, whom we call upon for help and guidance at the beginning of any healing encounter. Chunyi would suggest possible masters – like Jesus or Buddha – but I usually just reached out to universal energy. The idea of a master didn’t resonate with me.
In 2003, I participated in an advanced QiGong retreat, which involved extended meditations. During one 2-hour meditation, Master Lin moved among us, offering each of us a healing. I was lying on the floor, with my eyes closed, in the midst of a quiet, peaceful meditation, when I felt his touch, brief and gentle, on my right cheekbone. Instantly – almost like an explosion - the face of Jesus appeared in my imagination, just inches in front of my face. Immediately, I knew: There’s my master.
Since then, when I’m having a difficult time in a session with a client or any time I’m doing healing work, I call upon Master Jesus for help. I make a little quiet space, and help arrives.
The irony of a Chinese Taoist facilitating my re-connection with Jesus still makes me smile.
The second epiphany occurred two or three years later. I was with my spiritual growth group in a two-hour journeying meditation. With powerful drum rhythms reverberating in the room, we were sprawled on blankets around a large candle, like spokes of a wheel - heads at the center, feet out on the periphery.
Halfway through the meditation, out of the blue, I said to myself: “I’d like to see the face of Jesus again.” Instantly, just like before, a face appeared, inches from me. This time it was my face! My laughing, jubilant face!
Shock was immediately replaced by a fierce clarity. In one intuitive grasp, I knew: This is not about me. It’s about all of us. In some fundamental way, we all are what Jesus is. We all are God's offspring, human/divine beings, temporary and eternal, inseparable from God/Allness – just like Jesus.
I have come to view this epiphany as an experience of Christ Consciousness – a deep awareness of our divine nature and oneness with the universe, a truth we share. Jesus, I believe, claimed this truth for all of us, not just for himself.
Since that experience, whenever I speak or write about the Divine Within and similar subjects, a powerful sense of peace comes over me – even as I struggle to find words for this mystery. And even though a young part of me sometimes worries he’ll be judged a heretic - or a lunatic.
Over a lifetime, most of us experience a number of epiphanies, paradigm shifts that transform us – in ways big and not so big. Sometimes, the full impact is immediate. Sometimes, effects unfold gradually.
Epiphanies gift us and grace us. They arise – unexpected and unbidden – from the quiet spaciousness inside us, sometimes triggered by external encounters. We don’t control how or when they arrive.
We simply open our eyes, open our hearts and make room in the inn.