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How to have an epiphany

May 6, 2012

umbrella in the rain
An epiphany isn’t something that just happens. It’s not a privilege exclusive to starving artists, so don’t expect a lightening bolt of inspiration to suddenly jolt you out of a slump. Sure, sometimes your idle mind might luck out with a freebie, maybe when you’re in the shower or driving home from work. Most of the time, it’s not something that finds you.

An epiphany is something you hunt.

I’m sure other, wiser creatives could give far better advice on how to hunt down an epiphany. But I have a method that works for me, so maybe it will work for you too.

Go on a walk.

That’s all. Just walk. You don’t have to think about anything in particular. Listen to your iPod, or listen to the birds sing. Or listen to nothing. It doesn’t matter. Don’t try to make yourself “appreciate nature” or “focus on your breathing” ­– unless, of course, that’s what you want to do. Just take a walk and see what happens.

In case that’s not enough, I’ll provide some further (very loose, and okay to ignore) instruction.

How to walk your way to an epiphany:

1)     Pick a destination. Wandering aimlessly won’t get you in the right mindset. The purpose of this exercise is to experience an epiphany at the end of your walk. So give yourself a time limit, too, and choose a destination that will give you about a 25 minute walk. A Starbucks happens to be the perfect walking distance from my apartment.

2)     Bring a pen and paper. By the end of your walk, you WILL have something to jot down. It might be a brilliant idea. It might be a To Do list. Get it in ink while it’s fresh.

3)     Pack a snack. Your walk might make you hungry, and it’s hard to have an epiphany when you’ve got the shakes.

Exercise is scientifically proven to improve brain function. (I don’t know all the details, but it has something to do with the release of endorphins.) It puts you in a sunny mindset, and a happy mind is a brilliant mind. If you don’t like walking, maybe try going for a swim or pumping some iron. It’s just a hunch, but I’m guessing the more you enjoy the exercise, the more likely you are to uncover that big idea you’ve been searching for.

As for me, I think I’ll stick to walking. The path I walk is quiet and smells like honeysuckles. I leave my headphones behind and let my mind wander. I say hello to the occasional dog walker. And before I even get to Starbucks, I’ve found my first epiphany.

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