Sheryl Noday’s voice always bubbles with enthusiasm, but should you be in the midst of receiving one of her professional services, hers is not the voice you will hear. As a channel for a group of star Beings called Siria Family, Sheryl uses her considerable gifts to allow these to speak to clients through her… and they have a lovely Irish lilt to their speech.

If channeling were her only gift, she would still be a fascinating interview subject, but in addition Sheryl is also an accomplished painter who has degrees in photography and recently graduated from courses at the Art Institute of Chicago. Sheryl’s painting “The Way of the Magician” is featured in LFAC’s current exhibit Chicago Festival of Spiritual Art: Prayer.

“I paint for my soul and I channel for my spirit,” she says. “It’s taken a long time to really understand those dynamics within myself. The path to being an artist is not exactly easy, is it? The path to being a channel is not exactly easy, either, but there’s a certain kind of dedication that you must have in anything that you do.”

From childhood, Sheryl has felt equally called to both art and intuitive work. As young as five, she began having encounters with Beings. “I really brought my capabilities over from having many other lifetimes as painter and many other lifetimes as a channel healer. Like most children I had mystical experiences, and they really meant a lot to me. My journey wasn’t that all of a sudden I had an epiphany and then I started. I never had an epiphany; as I grew, my sensitivities grew, and my interests grew, but they were always there.”

When Sheryl was around twelve or so she began taking photographs of neighborhood kids, and the budding Annie Leibovitz eventually delved into a career in commercial photography. But at the same time, she was exploring the realm of the unseen.

One day after a psychometry class when she was a teenager, her teacher asked Sheryl if they could speak to Sheryl’s spirit guides. “She guided me into a trance space that changed my life forever. In the trance space were two very beautiful beings who spoke through me, and when I came back out of trance my teacher said to me, “you’ve been doing this a very long time.” Now what that means is I had the opportunity and the choice to do it again in this life. So there were times in my life where I’ve had periods of great growth and awareness, but there’s always choice. It wasn’t like “you have to do this”, but more like, “Remember, if you would like to, you can”. And of course I chose yes because of love. Channeling is love.”

Siria Family, who are Beings of Light and consciousness associated with the star Sirius, showed up after she’d become more experienced in the metaphysical arts, and they’ve been with Sheryl ever since. In fact, they’ve known Sharyl since the beginning of her earth experience and only came to her when she was ready to receive them.

Watching Sheryl go into trance is a singular experience for both the audience and the channel herself. From the outside, we watch a woman (who gradually is becoming a mere vehicle for another presence) rock slowly back and forth in a chair. She makes a noise like a stiff, oncoming breeze, and then a loud tone so pure it might have been struck from a tuning fork. And suddenly, there is the Being, a member of Siria Family, given voice and a chance to communicate with those in attendance. Sheryl, obviously, is aware of none of this.

“For me it’s very much like a dream, so I don’t have full memory or full access, but there might be feelings or images that slip by. It’s coming though, it’s like sitting on a train, and watching everything outside while you’re on the train, you’re not participating in that, so I can feel the vibration through me, but I’m very unattached.”

The key to channeling is to surrender, but even that’s just not enough to truly channel. “Like any profession, you’re not going to become a skilled doctor over the weekend, or skilled writer by writing a few times. First, one learns how to surrender, how to let go in a safe place. What are some of the masks that we have that could interfere with one’s ability to surrender? It’s very difficult for people to even sit in a chair for ten minutes without all kinds of static going on in their mind. How do we begin to control that, how do we begin to diminish that? How can we tell the difference between our spirit guides, or a sub-personality coming through, or some kind of ego story? All of this requires sensitivity. And sensitivity comes from being able to have a kind of stillness within the self, a kind of discipline, self-trust, a willingness to dive into the self, all these working simultaneously. And last but not least is the ability to love the self, self-love. All this we offer to spirit in becoming a vehicle. This is surrendering.”

However, surrendering is not a sensation Sheryl necessarily feels while creating her visual art. Though they are often used interchangeably when it comes to the act of creation, for Sheryl the words “channel” and “inspire” have two different meanings. “For the longest time ever on planet Earth we’ve been looking up at the stars, wondering about our place, our role in it all. In its ancient form, what the word channeling means is communicating with something that is not yourself.” If I were lost in writing this article, say, if I went into a trance while I typed, I may be considered to have channeled it in a similar way to how Sheryl channels Siria Family. But Sheryl considers her artwork to be inspired rather than “channeled”.

“I call it inspired, because I’m making decisions on color and because I’m conscious. But someone else may call it “conscious channeling”. There are lots of fine lines.” She gives the example of a book by Eckhart Tolle. Of it, he says “‘this is not channeled, it’s inspired, because I crossed every t and dotted every i, edited it, and I put a period at the end of every sentence.” Still, she sees where the confusion comes in.

“Channeling can be a very loose term, there’s no doubt about it. For example, others might feel that we’re channeling this, because we’re having an inspired conversation. But for me, channeling is going into trance and surrendering my being to another group of Beings that I give permission to do so.”

Unfortunately, due to a current “vogue” about the word, the definitions of channel are growing ever looser. “You can turn on “Entertainment Tonight” and see who’s “channeling” their new dress,” Sheryl points out. “I’m not out to change anyone’s opinion; they can call it whatever they want. I’m not judging them at all. If anyone took the classes we offer I would explain to them the different kinds of channeling and see what they resonate to. But what can I say, I’m old school, I’ve been doing it a long time.”

Healing has always been central to all of Sheryl’s disciplines. All of her work, artistic and metaphysical, is under the umbrella “Art The Silent Healer”, a title she received from her Higher Self many years ago. She considers her work with Siria Family more healing than anything else.

“These are not the type of beings that you would come to and want to know if you’re going to get the job or not; these are the beings you come to help you create that job and create that reality you desire. They help us heal, by looking at life’s issues in a unique way, the message of the soul ,the filling of the heart. They do their work through me. It’s a co-creation, we’ve been together for a long time, but they come through me to do their work, and there’s an alignment. Their passion’s healing and so is mine.”

Even with her visual art, that healing can occur. “I made a piece called “The Spirit of Summer”, that was exhibited at the first Chicago Festival of Spiritual Art in 2009 at Life Force. It was all yellows and has a lot of movement of paint, and one woman actually had the kind of impact that I would have liked to have had someone have, which is that her solar plexus opened. What I’m getting at is moving energy, if it’s energy on the physical plane or the movement of the unseen energy.”

Sheryl has much the same attitude to working with different art mediums as she does to working in different realms. While she’s a photographer by training and has done sculpture in the past, right now she’s immersed in painting. “Having a relationship with one art form, and bringing in another art form in doesn’t mean the first one’s lost. I see myself as a storyteller, finding the tool that helps me tell the story. That’s what my goal is, to be proficient and efficient with a number of tools.”

And even with these tools, there still are always those moments of, shall we say, uncertainty. “I think even with a master artist or a master painter, there have always been times when there’s been part of that painting that has gone completely into chaos, completely into the unknown, and they discovered how to relocate the magic within. There’s been times where I’ve gotten lost, and had to retrieve [the piece] back. Those emotions are addressed in every piece, which is what hopefully gives it depth.”

Her favorite piece of her art? “I always love the one that I’m working on, but I’m always excited for what’s coming next. I’m in a wonderful space right now of feeling just very committed to my purpose in being here, and I’m fully involved in it. I give myself entirely over to my work, if that’s in the studio or that my working with spirit.”