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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dream Recall

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Earlier this week I woke up and began journaling my dreams from that night. I wrote down three dreams. Then I got out of bed and started my morning routine and was getting ready to leave for work when I realized that I didn’t have any breakfast. Maybe I could pick up something on the way to work, I thought.  But then I opened up my refrigerator and looked inside and “ping” I remembered another dream. A fourth dream.

I have been concerned about my overall health lately, specifically my thyroid. It runs in my family, but I don’t believe in prescription medicine for myself. I won’t even take an Advil or Motrin except in the case of a migraine.  Over the last year I’ve researched natural and organic foods that can help reduce the size of the small thyroid goiter that I have.

Back to the refrigerator moment…

I instantly recalled another dream I had that night. In my dream I was told that the root of my thyroid was (and this may not be true for everyone) my immune system. My immunity needed to be boosted and that I should drink orange juice. The vitamin C would be beneficial.  In my dream I felt that I should continue to take care of this naturally without medication.

The point of this story is not my health or  my thyroid. My point is that you can recall dreams when you wake up at two o’clock in the morning or upon waking at your regular time or even in the oddest of places. Usually it’s a word or phrase, a song or a place or thing, such as opening a refrigerator, that will trigger your dream recall.

The key to recalling your dreams is never doubt them and be consistent about writing them down. It’s a practice. The  more you do it the better you will be at it. Dreams will seemingly begin to flow and your recall will become a habit. That’s not to say that  you will remember all of your dreams. We can have many dreams in one night.  Some will be forgotten, but the important ones, the dreams you are  meant to get will be shown to you while you sleep.

Several people that I have met and talked to have told me that they dream but they don’t remember them, if they have any at all. Others share them with me or ask me to interpret their dream for them. We all dream every night. Whether we remember them or want to is a personal choice. I feel that recalling dreams is a helpful divination tool.  The point of recalling and interpreting your dreams is to get the message that the universe has for you.

 

Next: Types of Dreams

What are dreams?

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Dreams are messages from the universe that we receive while we sleep. The dreams are specific to the individual who receives the dream. There are some occasions when a dream is meant for someone else. In that case the dreamer is the messenger ( in which the dreamer gets a message from someone’s loved one in the spirit world to give to a friend or family member, for example). There are also daydreams where we let our minds wander – like taking a mental vacation. And then there are the dreams for ourselves – where we want to be in our career or where we want to be in our lives in a week, a year, ten years or someday. But, the dreams I’m speaking of are the sometimes scary, sometimes weird or wonderful but mostly you-just-can’t-make-this-stuff- up type of dreams that we have every night when we go to sleep.

Dreams come to us at night while we sleep and are completely at rest. Our subconscious mind acts as the conduit through which information is communicated to our conscious mind.  The information comes from as I said,  the universe: angels, God ( the source), our spirit guides, our loved ones on the other side and others. The information being downloaded, if you will, come as images sometimes played out like a movie; sometimes just a few random symbols.  Dreams occur during the R.E.M. cycle. If you’ve ever watched someone while they sleep and see their eyes moving from left to right under their eye lids, it appears  as though  they’re watching a movie or an event play out in front of them while they sleep.

Is there a reason why we dream? Yes, actually, there is a reason for everything, including our dreams. Sigmund Freud, the famed Viennese psychoanalyst, wrote that his own personal dream analysis convinced him of his wish fulfillment theory. These were dreams that were close to daydreams in that they were made up by the dreamer. He also believed that the dream released stress that the dreamer could not express during his or her waking hours and that they were a way for the individual to go over his or her events from the day.

 Dr. Freud’s fellow psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, did not believe in the wish fulfillment theory. Rather, he believed that dreams came to the individual at night during sleep.  He also believed dreams or messages come to us while we are awake in the form of ideas and daydreams. He did not believe that they could be made up. They just flowed from a greater source and into our subconscious while we slept.

I will be writing about nearly everything dream related: what they are, who dreams, when we dream, where our souls are when we dream and why we dream what we dream. We find the answers to our dreams within. 

Next: Dream Recall

 

Dream No. 1

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  • * Note: This is the first in a series of dreams and dream recall and interpretation.

 

The oldest dream that I recall having was a nightmare. I wouldn’t realize it was in fact a pre-cognitive or prophetic dream until nearly a year later.  After 30 plus years this dream is still vivid.  In the dream I am supposed to be going to a record store (this was the about 1980 when there were still just records in record stores) with my best friend in high school, Spacey.  I get to her house and knock on the door. When no one answers the door, I open it and call out her nickname, Spacey – after Ace Frehley (Space Ace) of KISS- but no one responds.  I look in the living room, the kitchen and run down the hall to her bedroom. She isn’t anywhere. Curiously, no one else is home either. In the dream, I begin to feel my heart race. I can’t find her. I call her name again as I run back up the hallway toward the front door and I see her….hanging from a coat hook on the inside of the front door. There is blood everywhere. On her neck and running down her fully clothed body.   In my dream I know she was dressed and ready to go out with me to the record store, but she didn’t quite make it out the front door.

Recall of this dream did not come until three months later while I was visiting my grandparents in Florida.  It happened while I was sitting in my grandmother’s mustard yellow vinyl recliner reading a collection of rock and roll history from the 1950’s through the late 1970’s. It was relaxing – the first somewhat relaxing day I’d had in a few months. Grief over my friend’s loss had consumed me all day, every day. I replayed memories of us in school, talking on the phone after school and that horrible September day that I learned of her death.

On Thursday that week I wished Spacey a happy birthday. Three days later on a Sunday afternoon I called her house. When I asked to speak with her I heard gasping and crying from the first two family members who answered the phone and then the third person, her uncle, barked through the telephone,    “Who is this?” I explained who I was and again asked to speak with her. He told me she had passed away the night before in a vehicle accident.

What’s interesting to me is that this was my first dream recall that I could recall at that time.  I did not recall the dream the morning after I had it, nor did I recall it anytime prior to or just after the accident.  I wasn’t ready for it, perhaps? Instead, I had a flash of that dream sitting in my grandmother’s recliner.  In that flash, I knew I’d dreamt it before and was able to recall the entire dream.  Perhaps I was relaxed enough to allow it to come into my consciousness, when I had stopped obsessing over my friend’s death. In other words, the information was already out there in the universe, but I was too busy to receive it.

What I’ve learned is that dreams grab our attention just after we have the dream – even if it wakes us up at 2:00 in the morning – or at a later time. The dream may be recalled upon waking; when a song on the radio triggers the dream recall; or sitting in a chair reading a book.

 

Abundance and the Hindu Goddess

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The first time I saw him he was wearing a Ramones tee shirt, the short sleeved black shirt with the presidential – like seal bearing an eagle holding a branch of something in one claw and a baseball bat in the other and RAMONES in large, loud letters above the bands iconic logo.   I feel a kinship with anyone who wears a tee shirt of my favorite rock band and so naturally I was intrigued by this man.  He came in once a week to the bank where I worked. He was well over six feet tall, dark haired, nice eyes and smile. We always exchanged small talk, nothing heavy. The last time I saw him was the first time I met the woman on his arm. He introduced her as Lakshmi.

He told me his parents were Indian and that Lakshmi was the Hindu goddess of wealth and fortune. The tattooed stencil of Lakshmi that was on his upper arm was not yet colored in. Above the stenciled likeness of Lakshmi, near his shoulder, was a large white and yellow hued lotus tattoo. All I thought of at that moment was how much getting all that art tattooed on his arm must have hurt. As he left that day, he turned his head around toward me and smiled. As I look back on that day, I wonder if Lakshmi was smiling through him as if to say, “You’ll see me again soon.”

As I always say, the universe has ways of bringing us to our next assignment or chapter during our life here. Later that week, I picked up a book that I’d recently bought, “Archangels and Ascended Masters” by Doreen Virtue. I opened it up to the contents page and scanned over the chapters of archangels, gods & goddesses and deities. There she was on page 113. I read the chapter on Lakshmi with curiosity and intrigue. Clearly I was meant to learn more about the Hindu goddess. Suddenly she was everywhere to me. I found a lotus blossom candle holder and brought it home with me. I bought a beautiful pair of lotus blossom drop earrings that I wear nearly every day. I know it sounds corny, but I like to keep her close to me.

I wanted to learn more about Lakshmi, to understand why I kept seeing lotus blossoms, to find out why she is around me and what message she has for me. So, I went into research mode. The lotus blossom symbolizes spiritual awakening.  During meditation, the seventh chakra, the crown chakra opens up like a lotus as well, when we have a clear channel to the divine. Lakshmi’s name in Sanskrit means observe, know, understand, goal, aim, objective, as well as auspicious opportunity or fortune. She is depicted as having four arms that represent the four goals of human life.  They are dharma, artha, kāma and moksha. Respectively they mean pursuit of an ethical, moral life; pursuit of wealth; pursuit of love; pursuit of self-knowledge.

For me, Lakshmi represents abundance. An abundance of wealth, health, education and prosperity that will continue to be my goals in 2016. I prefer to have goals rather than resolutions for the incoming year. Goals seem so much more achievable than promises to myself that I can’t or won’t keep. Still, the four goals of human life should be achievable or at the very least something that we all want to aim for. I have much to be grateful for: family, work, opportunities to learn new things, and to the man in the Ramones tee shirt who brought Lakshmi to my awareness.

 

 

John Lennon

In the early morning of Tuesday, December 9, 1980, I awoke at 6:00 a.m. when my clock radio alarm went off. I lay in my bed for a few minutes more listening to the music, not really in a hurry to get up and get ready for school that cold, dark morning. After the song finished playing, Pete Clark, the deejay of the local rock radio station said, “Good morning. I’m sorry you have to wake up this way this morning.” He paused and then continued saying that John Lennon was shot and killed the night before. After that I didn’t hear anything.

I was numb with shock and then disbelief. Either way I was jolted out of bed, cold notwithstanding, and got ready for school. Nearly everyone in  my senior class was stunned. It was pretty hard to accept. For most of us it was our first experience losing someone we knew, whether it was a celebrity, friend or family member. Personally, I didn’t know how to process this. No one ever really explained death or dying to me.

The first few days after John Lennon was murdered, rock radio stations in the New York area (and I’m pretty certain everywhere) played Beatles and Lennon’s songs and interviews; newspapers ran special editions; Beatle and John Lennon memorabilia were being sold in stores. (The internet was about ten years away.) Meanwhile, he and his wife, Yoko had been working on their new album together, “Double Fantasy” at the time of his death – his first album in five years. Ironically, it’s first single was titled, “Starting Over”.

What I recalled about John Lennon at that time was his music, his social activism (the bed-in), and to some extent his religious or rather spiritual beliefs. I did not realize until many years after his death the depth of his spirituality. He believed in re-incarnation, that God is a source and his spiritual and social beliefs were reflected in his songs. I wonder what he would say about the state of the world today.

In the book, “The Cynical Idealist: A Spiritual Biography of John Lennon” by Gary Tillery (2009, Quest books), Tillery writes that soon after writing “Nowhere Man” in 1966, John “would be down on his knees in a locked bathroom begging God for a sign.”  Elizabeth Gilbert also got down on her knees in her bathroom and begged for God’s help, as she wrote in “Eat, Pray, Love”.  I can relate to this and I’ll bet a lot of us can. When I’ve desperately needed an answer from God or the angels, that’s where I go. Why is that? I believe it’s because it’s the most private and therefore safest room in the house to communicate with God.

John Lennon would have been 75 years old this year;  incredibly 35 years since he passed, 2 months after his 40th birthday.

 

“We live in a world where we have to hide to make love, while violence is practiced in broad daylight.” ~ John Lennon