Spiritual Awakenings ~ Grandma Shirley

Grandma Shirley ‘s holiday cookie specialty was snowball cookies, a melt -in- your- mouth butter cookie with nuts and covered in confectionery sugar that resembled a small snowball. I would eat them as fast as she could make them. They were too irresistible to leave alone on the plate. Snowball cookies (a.k.a. Russian Tea Cakes and Mexican Wedding Cakes) are what she called them for young children. They were not for me or my sisters or brother, but for one of the organizations that she volunteered for. She had a kind and generous spirit. She taught me a few life skills in addition to baking such as personal finances. Grandma Shirley was one of my first spiritual teachers. She introduced me to reincarnation.

In the early 1980’s reincarnation was beginning to become part of the vernacular and Shirley Maclaine played a big part in it. I recall seeing the magazine with her in it and the subtitle about UFO’s, that my mom left on the coffee table. It scared me at the time and I threw down the magazine. This was after my encounter with Grandma Shirley when she told me she believed in reincarnation. She tried to explain to me that when someone we love dies or transitions, as a friend of mine had recently, they don’t really leave us. I loved her but I had no idea what she was talking about.

Fast forward about seven years when my spiritual journey started accelerating. I had already met my spiritual mentor HB who had handed me ‘Out on a Limb’ to read. As I’ve mentioned before, I was ready for this. It was the right time. So, when I saw my grandma Shirley again I did not feel freaked out. We had a mutual interest in reincarnation. She talked about the feeling that she had been here before – where she and my grandfather were currently living in the northeast. I understood what she was saying. We were on the same psychic wavelength.

I saw grandma Shirley a few months later in the hospital where she was dying from leukemia. She succumbed not long after that and made her transition. She didn’t push her beliefs on me. Sharing her spiritual beliefs with me was another way that she showed her love. Perhaps, we’ll be in another life together. It was a wonderful ‘life’ skill she imparted to me. And her snowball cookie recipe.

Spiritual Awakenings

photo by leslie sheraden

“Spiritual Awakening is a shift in consciousness – an initiation into an expanded sense of awareness.” ~ Melanie Beckler

Preface

A spiritual teacher is the one that told me I had a lot to say about my experiences. At that time, I had experienced much: my feelings of spirituality versus religion, dreams, channeling, paranormal, teachers entering and exiting my life, past life regressions, intuitives and divination and last but certainly not least visitations. I was growing spiritually. But there was much more that I needed to learn and the universe was guiding me to new teachers and mentors because when the student is ready, the teacher appears. 

I have been blessed with many more spiritual experiences since that time about ten years ago. That teacher suggested that I write a book. I was skeptical but kept an open mind. The only problem was I did not write. That is, I did not like writing. I did not like writing in my academic life or my career. A middle school English teacher assigned a creative writing project. I think I wrote a paragraph where in it I wrote something like, “…the tops of my boots wilted over like rose petals.” She loved it and told me to keep going. My creativity wilted just like those boots. I’m not sure why I did not like writing. But as I grew older my dislike for writing did not change. In a committee I was involved with where I worked at the time, I was tasked with coming up with a mission statement. Just a short paragraph that tells everyone who we are, what we are and how we might attain our mission. Naturally, I froze. And then I asked someone else for help in writing it. 

Several years later during a career change due to the economic turn down in 2008, I took several classes at a community college to sharpen the saw or change direction altogether. And that’s almost what happened. On a club board in the student lounge there were several options for participation. One that really popped out was the school newspaper. The suggestion to write came to mind as soon as I saw it. I amused the universe and attended the first club meeting. I read a lot and listened to the news that was delivered on news broadcasts, so I thought I knew how  to structure a story. At the journalism club I learned to write, investigate and report and discovered that I liked writing. The words just flowed. How the words flowed or where the inspiration and motivation comes from is a mystery to me. They flowed into a blog and (so far) two books. At each step on my  journey the universe has opened up for me at the right time, like each petal of a lotus that is blossoming. 

Summer Break

I’ve taken a hiatus from writing this summer not because I’ve been on fabulous, adventurous vacations. Not this summer.

Earlier this summer a beloved family member made her transition to the spirit world. She loved rock and roll, was not religious at all and was supportive of my writing. Then, there is the matter of my day job that has had me so stressed out. I’ve also been thinking about writing a new chapter.

Being outside in nature this summer, however, has been relaxing and inspiring.

A Dream Awakening

My first dream I remember to this day because it was a precognitive dream of my high school friend, Spacey. I don’t recall the actual date – the recall came later after she had passed away. 

Nearly a year after her transition I experienced my  first visitation dream. That’s not to say I didn’t have any dreams before then, I just don’t recall any.  In between these two dreams I had  others including  another precognitive dream, this one about an event in my future which came to pass. I recall these dreams with clarity to this day without having to consult a journal. In my experience visitations and foretelling dreams such as precognitive and prophetic are dreams or experience’s that stayed with me. 

Since that first dream forty years ago, I continued to have dreams, some that I could recall without the aid of a journal to remind me. Although it was not precognitive or a visitation dream, I was learning to recall and remember my dreams. As soon as I recalled the dream, upon awakening or later in the day, I wrote it down on a scrap of paper. One scrap of paper with dream details on it eventually became an accumulation of pieces of notebook paper, backs of receipts or the envelope of a bill or junk mail that was within reach. I then knew it was time to get organized and buy a journal to put these into and continue writing down the details of my dreams. But the reason for writing my dreams down was that they began to increase in quantity and intensity.

I had become aware that I was having more than one dream a night. It didn’t take very long to fill up that first journal with my nightly dreams: nightmares, prophetic and precognitive, visitations, sleep paralysis and other helpful and interesting dream types. I had also filled the journal with doodles to illustrate what I could not always put into words and so that I could refer back to the dream later, especially if  I had the dream again (recurring dream). 

Recalling and journaling continued for a time. I shared my dreams with those I knew in an effort to share this new interest and to me, phenomenon. I don’t believe that I shared these dreams to start a conversation but that is exactly what happened…eventually. Some people thought it was a novelty, like when we all started to see psychics that became so popular to do in the 1990’s. Others thought dreams didn’t mean anything in particular and that maybe I was a bit odd. And then, sometime later, those same people began to share their dreams with me! 

Not very long after I started to keep a dream journal, I went to a book sale and found  Rosemary Ellen Guiley’s The Encyclopedia of Dreams: Symbols & Interpretations (Berkley edition, 1995). I needed it. The universe was telling me I was ready to start assembling the symbols and solving the message.  This book had enough of the more common symbols to get me started on interpreting and understanding my dreams. I got some help from Shyla, a spiritual teacher and I learned to intuit what I could not find a symbol for either in the aforementioned book or a couple of dream dot com sites that I found on the internet in the late 1990’s. Ultimately, I learned to gather all the symbols and my intuition and go with what resonated with me. And that I feel is the most important component of dream interpreting. A bunch of dream symbols put together are just symbols. But, how does that feel to the dreamer? Does the dream symbol or symbols resonate? The meaning of the dream should be a good fit, after all, the message is specific to the dreamer. 

The Universe has guided me through each stage of dreams: recalling, journaling and interpreting. Dreams have been one of the most enlightening lessons on my spiritual awakening path. They have become, for me, a helpful divination tool to download messages from my consciousness with the help of my guides and the universe. Being a teacher of dreams to others has been an unexpected gift. People I have helped like to have the dream interpreted for them, but I also want to teach and empower them to interpret their own dreams. And that is because the universe has a message for them. 

*all photos by Leslie Sheraden

Knowing, Hearing, Seeing, Feeling: The Clairs

Shyla shared with me that she was afraid to see a ghost, that is, an earthbound, while she was investigating a haunted house with a paranormal group. She told me she had been lying on a bed in a bedroom of this haunted house when, with her eyes closed, a female presence got on the bed with her and was talking to her. Shyla said she was afraid to open her eyes to see this ghost; she didn’t want to see her. My reaction to this was a mix of surprise and interest.

Shyla was a spiritual teacher and an intuitive medium. She had the gift of knowing, feeling, hearing and seeing, what I call the four clairs: Claircognizance, clairsentience, clairaudience and clairvoyance.

I have heard that anyone can be one or all of the clairs. I am mostly all four by admission. I have seen energy mostly in the shape of orbs and flashes. It frightens me now just as much as it has my whole life to see them. I don’t want to see a ghost or spirit or apparition. I’m not sure where this fear comes from, perhaps I learned to fear them at some point in my early childhood.

My other senses became stronger, particularly clairsentience. My inner and outer energy radar can feel energy from those living on earth as well as earthbounds. At first feeling earthbounds was frightening and I would run from the room. I still do. I learned to tell them to go away because they don’t belong here on earth and they don’t. They need to cross over first and then they can visit earth another time. Problem is, they don’t know they’re ghosts; they think they’re still flesh and blood.

Conversely, feeling a crossed over loved one is different to me. I feel love and an awareness of who it is. I feel Shyla when she’s around – she’s still teaching and inspiring me.

**All photos by Leslie Sheraden

Crossed Over Loved Ones

I believe that when our souls leave our human bodies they go to the Other Side of the veil. They go home. When I recalled  my soul leaving its body in a past life during past life regression therapy, it did not hurt. While the action of my death in that life may have been painful, I did not experience that during the past life recall.  I did not feel panic or that I wanted to leave. In fact, it felt quite natural. As I went through the blue tunnel, where departed souls travel to the  other side, I felt pure love, lightness and peace. It was not at all scary as I once believed death to be.

When Spacey passed away, the pain that I felt in my body, head and heart was impenetrable. No amount of hugs and hand holding would have lessened the pain. No one talked with me about death, except for expressing sympathy. I only knew from church sermons when I was young that when we die we go either to Heaven or Hell. I hoped she would go to Heaven.  I only knew that she was gone and I would never talk with her again. Eleven years later when Grandma Shirley passed on, I understood more about the soul; where it is after the body is no longer needed for its journey here. It did not mean that I missed her any less or that I did not mourn her.  I recalled our talks  a year or so before she left this world about reincarnation and that death was a part of the life cycle. 

As more loved ones passed, understanding grew and pain lessened. I knew that they passed from the physical world to the spirit world. They are still with us in spirit. When I was first aware that I was experiencing visitations I knew that it was communication from crossed over loved ones.

Linda was a co-worker at a media company we worked for in  New York. We both worked in accounting: she was the  accounts payable and accounts receivable bookkeeper,  I was an office clerk. I was younger than her by about twelve years; she was married with older children. I was recently married and was starting my family. She was supportive of me and I looked up to her. One morning on the radio a news report said a young man had been killed in a motorcycle accident. He was Linda’s youngest son. I was heartbroken for her.

A few years later I had a dream.  Linda and I were sitting at her desk. She was cross training me on an aspect of her job. She was sitting in front of her computer and I was sitting to her left. On my left were three beige 4 drawer lateral filing cabinets. While Linda was showing me something, I suddenly looked up at the end of the cabinets. I knew someone was there. A young man I did not know was wearing khaki pants and a waist length brown jacket, unzippered. He casually walked from behind the cabinets, looked right at me and said, “Please tell my mom I’m okay.” And kept walking. I had never met her son but I knew this was him in  my dream. Later, when Linda was training me on something I would be doing for her, we were sitting just as we were in my dream. I related this message dream to her. At first Linda did not believe that souls could connect with us in our dreams or connect with us at all. But she thanked me for telling her.

My visitations with Peggy during automatic writing, Spacey getting my attention while I followed a service truck that bore her nickname, and Grandma Shirley sitting next to me in bed talking to me and others that I knew that have visited me in different ways, have shown me that we all transform from the physical world to the spirit world. Physical death is not the end. My crossed over loved ones wanted me to know this and that they are just visiting.

*all photos by Leslie Sheraden

First Inklings

In the Beginning

As an adolescent, whenever something was bothering me or causing me anxiety, and as a teenager what didn’t, I would turn on the radio and keep it on all night, falling asleep to the music that the late night and overnight dee-jays played. It’s a coping mechanism I use to this day, although now I have a playlist on my iPhone. One particular late night or rather early morning I had suddenly woken up, restless. I did not know the source of my restlessness that spring night. Maybe it was school.  As I laid in my bed, tilting my head a little toward the window, looking up at the starry sky, a frightening thought cracked open the  darkness and illuminated the reason for my restlessness. I wondered: what happens to us when we die?

I tossed and turned all night, grateful for the radio as company. WNEW-FM in New York City was then a progressive rock radio station, adopting that format in the late 1960’s (The format changed again in the late 1990’s.) They were playing album sides of their featured record of the week, Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell, which was destined to become a classic; it was an album that had spawned a few great songs already in regular rotation on the iconic radio station. I had come to love radio because of my dad. He almost always had the radio tuned to the New York City  radio station.  I loved rock and roll music and listening to the deejays. They were intelligent, articulate and knew so much about the music they played. Listening to the radio became the inspiration for me to  want to pursue a broadcasting career and a lifelong interest in rock and roll history. But I digress…

I kept looking out of the window from my bed into darkness that seemed to go on forever.  Night time does that when I cannot get back to sleep. The night becomes elongated adding to the worrisome thoughts moving around in my head.  The reassuring voice of the overnight deejay and the music playing on the radio  redirected my thoughts on death and dying which should have been the least of my worries at such a young age. What is curious is that it should wake me up from a brief slumber and haunt me for much of that night.  How did that happen? 

What if the soul of every human being  was crammed up into the atmosphere. Where else would they go? The bodies went to heaven or hell depending on if they were good Christian people or not. Or so  my grandmother Evangeline said. My sister Angela and I learned from a very young age that if we didn’t accept Jesus  we would go to hell, although we did not understand what hell was. All of that was too abstract for small children, not to mention frightening. We both now  believe that this is not what happens. It would never have occurred to me to ask anyone else  what happens when someone dies. I didn’t think my mom and dad would have had better answers to my questions about death. But I never asked them.  

My teenage logic told me that souls somehow left the body and went up into the sky. So there must be infinite sky to accommodate the same number of souls. All the humans who have ever lived – for thousands or hundreds of thousands of years – would have a soul up in the  sky or heaven beyond the sky: cave people, Druids, Egyptians and people throughout the centuries to that night in the late 1970’s.

With the music still playing on the radio, I thought more about deep space. This first inkling about the universe generated so many questions. What else is out there besides souls floating around in the congested sky? How far up is heaven and can it be seen with the naked eye? Why do we die and not live forever? It would be about a decade before I would learn that each soul lives on after its incarnation on earth and can have more than one life here.  Other life experiences as a teenager and as a  young adult would take place before I would come to believe that. Eventually, my restlessness and endless thoughts surrendered to relaxation and I fell asleep, the stars lighting up the still night sky.  

And so began my spiritual awakening.

“When the Student is Ready, the Teacher Will Appear”

I have been writing about my experiences of my spiritual journey for a few years here and on social media. I’ve also written two books: one was a short story based on my spiritual journey and another about dreams and dream recall. Writing about my experiences has not always been easy for me (I’ll share that in a future blog) but whether I want to or not, spirit sends messages and guidance to encourage me to share my story. And so, I have been inspired to tell you about one of my first and more influential spiritual teachers.

It began in 1990, the searching for…something…something else or something more. Not knowing what that something was or where to find it I looked on the self-help shelves of a local bookstore. From past experience I knew that religion wasn’t the answer. Neither was drinking alcohol with the wrong people. I recall looking at the bookshelves hoping something would pop out or fall off one of the shelves and into my hands. Since I didn’t know specifically what it was I needed to fill the void within me I was hoping one of the books there in the bookstore would. One book did look familiar to me from recent television commercials: Dianetics . After some contemplation I decided to give it a try. I tried it for about two chapters and decided that it didn’t resonate with me. Trusting my gut was crucial. This wasn’t the book I was looking for.

Very shortly after that, I had the book in hand when I met H.B. someone who was introduced to me by my sister Angela. When he asked about the book I was holding in my hands I explained how I had been looking for something to fill a void or give my life meaning. Honestly, I didn’t really know what to call it or how to articulate what seemed to be missing or what I needed to find to fill that…something. H.B.asked me to follow him and when I did he handed me a book. Apparently, what I needed was in a book. This book was another familiar book. ‘Out On a Limb’ by Shirley Maclaine. My initial reaction was “Oh.”

I was familiar with Shirley Maclaine. Her name was synonymous with UFO’s in the early 1980’s when her book first came out. I recall feeling a little freaked out by her story then. But as I held the book H.B. had given me I didn’t feel freaked out at all. About a month or two later while I was on vacation I started to read it and couldn’t put it down. Believe it or don’t – and I knew people who wouldn’t believe it – this book resonated with me. I didn’t really get everything she spoke about but I was intrigued by the references to the Bible’s alterations and the channel, whose name was Kevin, if I recall (In the movie version of this book, the actual channel is in the movie).

The next book H.B. gave me was Edgar Cayce’s “There is a River”, the life story of the sleeping prophet. His book “Reincarnation” absolutely fascinated me and set me off on a life long passion of past lives. Apart from books, we attended seminars together and visited two psychics and talked a lot about spirituality.

If I had not selected the book that didn’t resonate with me, I would never have met H.B. and started off on the next leg of my spiritual journey and eventually find another spiritual teacher. And then another and another. Whenever I am ready to grow spiritually another teacher always appears.

Jumping Ahead to the End

Ann was a friend of mine who liked to read the last chapter of nearly every book she ever read first. The exception was the occasional biography or non-fiction book of pre-twentieth century British Monarchy. She already knew how their lives ended, but she enjoyed the details and history of their lives. Other than wanting to know how the story ended, I never really understood why Ann did this. She would only say that she wanted to see how the story ended first. Now, I wonder if she was looking for a happy ending in her own life’s story.

Maybe I reading too much into it. For me, jumping ahead to the end first would ruin the (hopefully) happy conclusion. I like the drama of the heroine or hero who are victorious over the antagonist. The wonder and romance of boy-gets-girl or girl-gets-girl or boy-gets-boy. And, if while I’m reading a book with drama, adventure, romance or magic, I’ll ponder if it is leading up to a sequel. Oh, the anticipation.

There is one story’s ending I would like to know the outcome of. The Pandemic. Now here I would agree with Ann. When will it end? What will the new normal look like and when will it happen? And, what will my life look like post-pandemic?

The ennui of quarantine, the nail-biting moments, the sad stories, the violence and other drama of this past year, feels like a story without an end now. However, there are other moments we can enjoy like how the glass of wine tastes, the colors in nature, things my children said, shows we binge watched, and all those other nuances that fill out a story. I am doing my best to stay in the moment – it hasn’t always been easy these last twelve months. I’m trying to stay present so that I’ll have a fuller, richer story to tell one day.

It ‘s been said that the end goal – the dream job, dream partner, dream house or whatever the dream is – is not the destination. It’s all part of the journey.

Remembrance

On Sunday, September 27, 1981 I called my close high school friend , “Janie” (not her real name) to check in with her. I had not spoken with her in a couple of weeks. I had graduated high school three months earlier and while I was happy to be out of high school, I did miss seeing the friends I had left behind. They were seniors now, their last year before exiting school and entering the next phase of their lives. So, it was her uncle who, after I asked to speak with her, wanted to know who I was and what I wanted. I told him who I was and explained I was a friend of hers from school. What he said next really stunned me, paralyzed me actually. He told me she died the night before, a car accident, and the date the funeral would be held.

For the first year following her death I could not get over it. Whenever a song or group that we liked came on the radio I felt the pain physically in my gut. I always remembered her birthday and the date of her death two days later as the years went by. Eventually, she faded to the background as I started a career, entered and exited relationships, got married and started a family. It was while I was driving to work one morning in the early 2000’s, after both of my children were on the school bus, that I received a message from her. The reason she chose that moment was mysterious but effective.

Shortly after that I would begin writing what I could recall from our brief school years together. At first it was just a few memories, the obvious ones like the favorite band that brought us together. Then the little things like passing notes in school, boys, what she wore, her hair. The more I started to write down the details the more I recalled. Then the tears came and the heartbreak all over again. I could not believe some of the little and big things, nuances, her sense of humor and other memories that I had forgotten or suppressed over the years.

I turned it into a short story in 2014. ‘Sweet Dreams’ was inspired by our friendship and my own spiritual journey up to that point.

I still feel her around me sometimes. I have wondered how she would have reacted to the grunge movement in the early 1990’s that ushered in Alternative rock. She may have said it’s all rock and roll. I wondered if she would be a drummer in a band as she always dreamed of and what she would think about other women rockers. In 1981 there was Debbie Harry, Joan Jett and the Go-Go’s. Would she have been among them one day?

What I know for sure is that there is a reason for everything. The answers are not always offered up. Maybe it’s just meant to be a mystery. Whatever the reason, she is still in my heart and always will be.