Inspiration

“If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.”  ~ Vincent Van Gogh

 

Like a lightning bolt, I never know when inspiration will strike.

Nature inspires me every day. I love the hues of blue and gray -whites on a really cold winter morning. I love how the sun dances off the water, glimmering sparkles of gold after a summer thunderstorm. I love the reds and golds of the fall foliage. I’m inspired by the textures of scenery – I love how it all comes together. I am always photographing it.

I’m inspired by a film with good, no, passionate acting and the cinematography. I love the beauty of film.

I’m inspired by art in the form of music, painting, drawing or photography, a play or musical. I love the passion that people exhibit through their work, their art.

I love a good book, not just a good book: literature. I love works by Tracy Chevalier and Patti Smith.

I’m inspired by people. People who live their lives with passion, a sense of adventure, an apparent acceptance of self so much so that they are content and able then to live in the present.

In high school I took a Humanities elective out of desperation. There was one other option that I would not take, the subject I don’t recall. So, I signed up for the comprehensive art class and was reluctantly accepted by the teacher. The class consisted of mainly art students and future art history majors. The teacher was refined and knew by looking at me that I didn’t deserve to be in his class – I was a bit rough around the edges but determined to stick it out in the class. Early on in the class there was a slide show of various paintings and other art pieces. One painting was Thomas Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy. He asked everyone in the class what we thought about the piece  and offer a description of it. I had seen this painting before and when it was my turn  to comment I said “I like it.”  The teacher said my answer was unacceptable. He wanted to know why I liked it.  

What I learned in this class stayed with me. It wasn’t the teacher, but rather the subject that inspired a love for the arts. When I go to art museums I really look at the piece, the colors, the subjects, the smallest details. What was the artist feeling, what did the artist wish to convey to us, or did the artist create it for themselves?

When I take photographs I don’t just see the scenery. I see texture and colors and light and I feel the emotions it evokes within me. Those are the elements of an art piece whether it’s a film, book, an historical piece in a museum, a painting, drawing or photograph. I am always interested, curious, grateful and inspired by life.

 

 

The Super Moon Trifecta

It’s significant to me that there have been three full moon Super Moon’s in as many months. This has been a year of pivotal change. Shocking, jaw-dropping and heartbreaking change. Everyone has felt it on every level no matter what the loss or change.

October’s Harvest moon,  November’s Beaver moon and now this week’s Cold Moon (the moon nicknames were given by Native Americans -it was how the tribes kept track of the seasons) are significant to me because in this year of endings, we have been called to release, release, release during the last three months of 2016.

Okay…I get that a Super Moon is just a little closer to the earth than a typical full  moon (November’s was the closest!) but I find it very interesting that since October there have been three straight Super Moon’s.  I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe that there is a reason for everything.  Time to take inventory and release.

What no longer serves us? What have we outgrown?  Release.

What do we need to heal so that we can move forward?  Release.

What do we need to change to bring about change?  Release.

People we work with or the job itself, lifestyle, relationships, habits: are these toxic?  Have you outgrown them?  Are you ready to release? Let them go.

This weeks Cold Moon and upcoming new moon are a great segue into the New Year with new opportunities, and time to start over.  Release the old during this week’s full moon; manifest the new  – use positive affirmations -on the new moon December 29, two days before New Year’s eve. Coincidence? No.

Best Wishes for all good things in 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seeing the Future

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As we get ready to leave this year behind and look ahead to 2017 there will be wishes, New Year’s resolutions and goals that we will set for ourselves and try – not always unsuccessfully – to see through and attain.  Career, love life and making or saving more money are the usual desires. We pray and hope that they will come to us. There is another way to clearly see what goals or dreams we should aim for and ways to find out how to begin achieving them. It’s something like magic. This process or tool is called divination.

Divination is a method for getting messages from the universe: God, angels, ascended masters, goddesses, saints and even the fairies. It’s okay if you don’t believe in any of them. It’s not required. But it may help to know who may be communicating with and helping you. There are different spiritual divination tools and some we use every day. There are dreams (the night time kind & day dreams – where we zone out), crystals, tarot cards, and meditation. 

 Carl Jung was the first to say that dreams came directly from Source and that they come to us while we sleep. He studied his dreams, symbols and archetypes and decoded them. From his research he identified what symbols and archetypes were and how to interpret dreams, the types of dreams and where they come from.  He believed, unlike his mentor Sigmund Freud that the messages came to us – that they were not our unconscious thoughts – decompressing and de-stressing from the labors and events of our human day. So, through our dreams we receive symbols and archetypes (universal symbols for example mother, mountain and numbers). Every symbol has usually one or possibly two different meanings and is not always the same for each individual – it depends on the other symbols in the dream, the context of the dream and what it means to the dreamer. We can use intention to find the answer to a problem. Very simply say what you would like a solution for before you go to sleep and if the answer doesn’t come to you by the time you wake up, it will eventually come to you…when it is meant to.

The stereotypical picture of the gypsy fortuneteller with a scarf wrapped about her head staring into a crystal ball originated from a divination method called scrying. Scrying was popular for many thousands of years from the ancient Celts up until the early 20th century. Scrying methods included mirror gazing, water viewing, fire gazing as well as crystal gazing. By staring into the crystal, mirror, water or fire, one could “see” what their future held.

The most popular divination tool for the last twenty plus years is the tarot card. Probably created in the 1700’s as a card game, it is now used by anyone who wants to foretell their future or divine answers and solutions to problems. Anyone can learn to read their own cards, however sometimes a more comprehensive card reading can come from a psychic/medium. They can “see” or “hear” what the average person cannot. And it’s fun and therapeutic at the same time.

Awareness is by far one of the best spiritual divination tools. And all we need to do is make sure that we are aware of signs: butterflies, birds, songs on the radio, and repetitive phrases and numbers to name a few. Hone your “gut” feelings and act on your intuition. You can incorporate your crystals or give yourself your own tarot card reading. A meditation practice also helps with awareness.

Set your positive intention, divine it –by whichever method you prefer –and then pay attention for the signs that your wish has been acknowledged and is being worked on by the angels, saints, a deity or even God or Source if you would rather use that name. The important thing is to choose which method works better for you for the manifestation of your dreams.

 

 

A Clean Slate

 

 

When I was thinking about what to write and what message to convey, change kept coming up. I know I’ve been writing a lot about change and transformation lately, however this has been an exceptional year of change. Change can be frightening. Fear takes over when someone is suddenly faced with losing their job; relationships end; loved ones pass away, living situations change. It can feel like the end of the world.  We all know it happens; life is dynamic; seasons come and seasons go. It’s the Universal Law of Rhythm. Where there are endings there must always be a beginning.

Why it happens and when it happens and sometimes how it happens is a clue, a nudge from the universe. It’s time to leave the past behind and move on. Start over. I can now feel when change needs to happen, like a band aid concealing a healed wound. The band aid needs to be ripped off.  Moving forward despite the pain of loss can make it difficult to believe that something better or different is just up ahead.

Nearly thirty years ago I had a major life change that was preceded by a chain of events that at the time I thought would never end. I moved into a new apartment in a new city,  and started a new job. I was young, living on my own, advancing in a career and had a new man in my life.  I thought my life and my future seemed promising. I did not see the train coming down the track.

Three months later – although it felt longer than that – my life became challenging and I was faced with choices. Everything good that came together almost at the same time, started to fall apart the same way. Sexual harassment was common in the workplace in the 1980’s and women who worked in male dominated industries were fair game. Even the man in my life whom I thought I could trust was in on the game. The relationship ended; I abruptly left my job; I had to leave my apartment and move back home, stunned, humiliated and broke.

I actually hit rock bottom. There was nowhere else to go except up. A month later,  a new and different career was waiting for me as well as better opportunities and new friends. I was still shaking a little but my life was improving.

The changes we have all been experiencing or witnessing in the past eleven months are nothing new. For thousands of years throughout history there have been many endings:  empires, religions, and cultures. There have always been confrontations, disputes and protests that are seen in  politics, war and witch hunts. There will always be those times in our lives that call for us to cut and run, to grieve, to move forward, to wipe the slate clean and start over and create a new beginning in our lives.

A Season of Change

 

 

Fall always reminds me of Demeter’s anger and sorrow at the seasonal sacrifice of her daughter Persephone to Hades. The coming of Samhain (pronounced sow-in), a pagan fall festival at the end of October, the time of year that the ancient Celts marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. And this past weekends Hunter moon, the first of three  SuperMoons of this year. No pun intended, but this is huge. Watch what happens around these SuperMoon’s. That’s the goddess within me speaking.

SuperMoon or not, fall is a time for reflection before moving on to whatever comes next. I think back over the last ten months at all that has changed in my life and in the world. I look forward with curiosity to what the remainder of this year will bring. Personally, this has been a year of tremendous spiritual growth for me and continues to be. I have grown in other ways as well.

I have recently launched my website: lsheridan.com which is still in its growth period. And this year will see the publication of a children’s book, “Last Night I Dreamt…. A Guide to Dreams and Dream recall” It’s a guide for tweens, teens and parents of younger children, but really everyone will get insight from reading it. And, I hope to publish another book next year. Now I understand what my dream of babies was about! Giving “birth” to something new.

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“You reflect on the people who used to be in your life and it’s like, ‘Wow. I can’t believe that person was ever really in my life.’ But people are put into your life for seasons, for different reasons and to teach you lessons.”

~Selena Gomez

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Other ‘F’ Word: Fear

 

Fear unfortunately is all around us: world events, politics and heart wrenching or mind reeling stories that the media reports. It has caused many of us to become more anxious about not only our future but our children’s future. I don’t watch the news or read the New York Times anymore.  It’s just too much for me. By choosing to not watch, listen or read the news, I have chosen to avoid most of it. I will not buy into it; I will not be a party to it. I have noticed how sick and tired, literally, I become of this thing called fear which takes on a life of its own. Fear is pervasive. We absorb the fear and toxic or negative energies around us.

I don’t pretend that world events and soul shattering situations don’t exist. I’m not burying my head in the sand like an ostrich. Which is actually a myth.  An ostrich only appears to have its head buried in the sand.  When the flightless bird senses danger and cannot run away it collapses its big body to the ground. Keeping still, it lays its head and neck flat on the ground in front of it. The white feathers on its head and neck blend in with the sand or dirt on the ground.  So, again, I’m not burying my head in the sand like an ostrich, rather I am removing myself from a difficult situation. I am choosing to avoid something that seems dangerous and in this political season many, many people want to talk about and share their opinions. I must say I have become very good at redirecting the topic.

Merriam Webster’s dictionary describes fear as:  an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger.

An awareness of danger…. How do we become aware of fear? I believe that fear is learned. We have learned since childhood to be afraid:  fear of not pleasing someone (authority, religion, family) and being punished harshly for it; a lack of abundance of money, food or love, and afraid of being without it again in the future; prejudices and witch hunts.  Like Pavlov’s dog, we have been trained to be fearful.

To be honest I have lived a part of my life feeling anxious and living in fear.  But, I have learned to step away from it. Fear can be un-learned.

What we fear (an object, a person, socializing, death, something emotional, physical or spiritual) manifests itself in our everyday actions and in each individual (mind, body and spirit). We become sick – physically and mentally. We become fearful of persons or situations and create scapegoats. The more energy we put out to this fear thing, the more power we have given it. This is exactly what is happening right now in our world whether it’s as big as world events and politics or as small as our own personal dramas. As this year has progressed, this fear thing has been intensifying.

The 32nd president of the United States assured Americans in the throes of the Great Depression in his first Inaugural address “…let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. “

Nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror.  While Franklin D. Roosevelt’s speech to elevate the American people applied 80 years ago, I have wondered if this can apply to our World now.

Can we choose to be free from fear?

 

*Photos taken by the author at Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, Washington, D.C.

 

A Summer Nature Retreat

*All photographs by Leslie Sheridan

 

“There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not Man the less, but Nature more. ”       ~Lord Byron

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nightmares & Sleep Paralysis

 

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The only thing that nightmares and sleep paralysis have in common is that they are frightening.  All comparisons end there.

Nightmares are thought to be brought on by anxiety in the dreamers waking life.  In my research, I have spoken with adolescents and adults who shared with me their nightmares and more often than not they told me about their anxious feelings prior to that night’s sleep. The actual events in the dream did not depict what the anxious feeling was about every time; however they were mostly about school, work, and other life events that may cause stress, but not always.

Sometimes a message is contained within the nightmare but the events in the dream may seem freaky, grotesque, horrific and incredible.  The dream may resemble a horror movie in that way.

Here is one nightmare I had that illustrates this.

A young man I work with was the junior manager on duty the night there was a huge explosion. Blood and body parts were everywhere.  A rock band was playing on stage – the explosion happened after the first set. He was overwhelmed with the aftermath of the massacre. His boss – the senior manager – would not help him; instead she walked away, leaving him to clean up the mess. No sooner that he did that, that the explosion happened again, after the bands second set. At this point, I knew the perpetrator wasn’t the senior manager (in this dream she is the one who is overwhelmed).  It was someone I did not recognize. My search to find the senior manager was futile. I knew she wanted no part of this. She was not supportive of the junior manager.  I helped him to clean up the body parts.  I noticed that blood saturated the carpet.

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Occasionally I have had a dream where suddenly I’ll be unable to move or scream for help. It feels as though someone or something is sitting on top of me, keeping me from moving and not only that but I cannot breathe. I’m aware that I must be dreaming as I struggle to get out from under the thing that is holding me down and force myself to roll off the bed or kick the person next to me so that they’ll hit me and I’ll wake up.  If feels as though I know I’m dying.  Sometimes I’ve stopped fighting. Other times I keep fighting so that I can wake up from this nightmare. Only it’s not a nightmare.  And, as I will explain, this “dream” is not brought on by anxiety. This is a phenomenon called sleep paralysis. The psychic Sylvia Browne called it astral catalepsy because this happens during the soul’s astral travels.

Every night while our human bodies are at rest our souls leave the body and travel or visit.  Our soul astral travels to different planets, universes, or the other side. The soul’s home is the other side. Our human bodies are the home to our souls while it is learning here on earth. The same is true on other planets or universes. Our soul keeps learning on the other side, too, but on earth the learning is more accelerated.  Likewise our soul can travel or visit anywhere on planet earth as well.  If this is hard to wrap your mind around, stay with me.

What is happening during sleep paralysis is that our souls are leaving the body while it is sleeping. The soul can also leave the body during meditation, too, but the body isn’t sleeping. The mind and body are only semi-conscious. And so what happens when the body is either just leaving or just returning from its nightly travels, the semi-conscious mind – not fully asleep – panics. It knows that the soul is half in and half out of the body. Whatever we see or hear in that dream is what the soul is experiencing at the time it gets “caught” entering or leaving the human body while it’s in the unconscious or semi-conscious state.

Nightmares, recurring, pre-cognitive and visitation dreams, as well as other dreams that we experience every night that may not fall into a type have information to relate to us. Sleep paralysis does not have information or a message for us. What it does show us is that our soul does move around while the human body is sleeping. It shows us that we are more than just our physical body.

AS WITHIN, SO WITHOUT

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AS WITHIN, SO WITHOUT

 Ferncliff Forest in Rhinebeck, New York, is a beautiful 200 acre privately owned Preserve with hiking trails and a modest camping and picnic area that surrounds a serene lake. It is a nature lover’s respite. The area begs to be photographed. I gave in to it. I took a few photographs as we climbed up large hills winding through bare trees. I could imagine how the trees would look in a month when the leaves filled in the bare spaces.  My destination – the reason that I wanted to go the forest in the first place – awaited me in the center of the forest on top of a steep hill. My camera ready, I excitedly climbed the hill and walked up to the fire tower.  I was genuinely surprised at what happened next.

When I walked up to the tower’s steps, I hesitated. I allowed others to go before me. It was not what I expected, but I did not understand the apprehension I was feeling. I climbed the first set of steps, about a dozen. Simple deer fencing was all that covered the outside of the tower from the base of the steps up to the railing on each set of steps all the way up the 80 foot tower.  I’ve climbed the Statue of Liberty’s narrow steps, only feeling slight vertigo. But, this was different.  Once I got to the landing before climbing the next set of steps, I froze. Hesitatingly, I began to climb the next set of steps to the landing with tears in my eyes. I started up again and again backed down turned around on the landing and went down the first set of stairs and once down on the ground,  looked up at the tower, my fear beginning to grow.

I had started repeating “I can’t, I can’t” over and over which was turning into a self fulfilling prophecy.  Someone I was with said to me, “What are you afraid of?”  In that moment I knew my fear was a metaphor.  What I was afraid of was beginning to become clear.  And, suddenly I became frustrated with myself for not trying harder. I had waited so long to come here, climb the tower and take breathtaking photographs of the view from the top.

Where does fear come from? Are we taught to fear?  Or do we create our own fear?  And is there something else at play here? Fear is paralyzing, it stops us in our tracks inhibiting us from moving forward. It doesn’t matter what you are afraid of or what event triggers the fear. Why we fear is personal.  All humans are not afraid of the same thing.  Most people fear spiders, others do not; some fear other people or situations while it doesn’t bother other people; many people fear death and others enjoy living. I believe some fears go way back, not only in this life time, but further back, to a past life.  We are all working out karma from another life or lifetimes. If we don’t work it out in one life time, we carry that karma with us to the next life and so on. I believe that while I was on the fire tower the karma clock was ticking.

With a fear to conquer I decided that the third time was the charm. I began again. The first set of steps. The second set of steps, half way up, backed down, sobbing from fear. I knew what my fear was and it wasn’t the tower’s steps. The fear I felt inside about moving forward – financial security, stability, taking the next step – was manifesting on the outside. As within so without.

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Determined to get up the tower and take pictures, I looked up, not down or ahead, as was suggested by someone else and I prayed to be kept safe as I moved upward. I breathed, counted the steps and finally made it up the fourth set of steps (about half of the tower –the rest will have to wait until fall when I go back). The view of the Hudson River and the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge was amazing. It was more amazing because I had chosen to move forward.  In the end what helped was counting steps…one at a time.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visitation Dreams

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Every night we dream and whether it is a nonsensical dream – or so you think – or a nightmare, every dream that we have has a meaning or a message. I have been led to write about visitation dreams. Usually in these dreams it is our loved ones who have crossed over that visit us. I say usually because we can also get visits from our guardian angels or a deity.  They visit us in dreams because they’re just checking in to say hello and to let us know that they are okay. For those of us who have  loved ones – humans or pets – who have crossed over,  this is a chance for us to see them one more time.

So how do you know if your dream is a visitation dream? I can tell you first hand that a visitation dream will stay with you for a long time. You know it’s real. You know that your loved one who passed away is truly visiting you. Where a nightmare sticks with you and is frightening, a visitation dream is anything but.

I have written about a close friend in high school who died tragically and how devastating it was for me to lose someone so close to me at a young age. A precognitive dream told me of her impending death less than a year later. Nearly eight months after her death I received a visit from her. In my dream she called me on a pay telephone (this was long before cell phones) to tell me that she was in a safe place and that she was okay. I woke up with a great sense of relief and joy. I heard from her. She was alright. My grief had been lifted, but I still missed her.

I have also been the bearer of messages to those who have lost loved ones. They appeared in my dream with a message for a family member or friend.  Some believed it, some  did not. And that’s fine. The important thing was that the message was delivered. I may have gotten it because the person for whom the message was intended was not open to it. And the message needed to get to them. Spirit will find a way.

What visitation dreams do for us is give us an opportunity to start the healing process. These dreams, these visits must be believed. Our loved ones have assured us by showing up in our dreams that they are okay. We need to have faith that they are, drop whatever guilt or regret that we have and move forward. We don’t have to nor should we forget them.  Our loved ones are always around us albeit not in the physical world but in the spirit world. They can see us and hear us. They’re present at our graduations and weddings or other happy life events as well as being around when things are not going so well. If our loved ones want us to know that they are nearby, they will find a way of getting our attention. Sometimes they will send us a butterfly, a bird, feather or a coin or coins to signify their presence.

I have had a beautiful visit from my grandmother Shirley that I wrote about in my book, “Sweet Dreams” (Balboa Press) where she was actually sitting at the end of my bed talking to me. What she said to me I couldn’t hear, but I saw her head moving. At the time of her visit, it had been eleven years since she had passed away. That dream is still clear to me and has stayed with me. It is so reassuring to me that she is around me. Grandma Shirley taught me good life skills and I got my love of baking from her. Sometimes when I am unsure of what to do in a particular situation that I need assistance with, I find myself asking, “What would grandma do?”  And then she answers me.