Lila DeLieto tells the adventure of rediscovering wildness, shifting with the shapes and sands of life. A refreshing take on what it means to do soul+work, her years of being a nomad, and storytelling through photography. It reads like poetry and it breathes like your heart.
Reminding people who they are and who they always have been through photography, healing arts, and circus.
What is your soul+work?
HA! This is a really good question. I’m not sure I’m even clear on my soul’s “work”, because it varies based on where I’m in my own healing and growth process. The path of the Priestess is a shapeshifty one, ya know? I own a photography business, Sheryl Sapphire Photography, and that work has been really great for building infrastructure. People have always fascinated me, so I like to say that I’m a storyteller of the human spirit. Although, I don’t necessarily think that’s my “purpose” or what I want to do to contribute to the greater whole for the rest of my life. I’m a writer at heart and a benevolent witch; here to remind people who they are and who they always have been. And I guess photography kind of supports that mission, too. We shall see where this takes me.
I also work with energy healing and circus arts… and children... I’m a Pisces for shit sake! I have a bag full of tricks and all of my work arrives at different times for different reasons. As long as I stay devoted to my spiritual path and my own healing, everything falls into place.
Why do you do what you do?
I do what I do because Spirit has given me almost no other option. I’ve never fit the societal mold. I’ve been fired from almost every “worky work” job I’ve EVER had, except for the one’s that I’ve quit. There’s something about the linear patriarchal model that’s never worked for me. I am only now starting to appreciate structure and discipline. I now see why I had to totally rebel against it first. The form and structure needed the healthy wild feminine. I was always a trouble-maker and boundary tester. (Especially being such an energetic spirit in an all-girl Catholic school.)
I understand that “rebellious” energy now. It was just Shakti... It was my wild hunger for creativity and something more than what was readily available. Shakti was coursing through my veins and I was just waiting for the moment to let Her free.
I went to college in New Hampshire and was a psychology major. (Because literally everyone and their Mother becomes a psychology major when they have no idea what else to do.)
I've been a dancer my whole life. My mother has owned her own dance studio since I was in utero. My mom has always been a positive role model for the creative life that I wanted. She has had her own business forever and always understood the arts, and for that, I am grateful. My sophomore year, something pulled me to study modern dance in France… and I followed that pull. I took my camera with me and started shooting. My dance teacher pulled me aside one day when we were rehearsing and asked me what I was going about my art. And I was all, “What art?”
She was talking about my photos.
When I got back to the U.S. I switched my major to Fine Arts and just spent the rest of my time in college doing photography, blowing glass, and studying modern dance. My college was utilizing and publishing my photos and I was getting paid to shoot school events. I also got into hula hooping and acro-yoga around that time, too. I was teaching kids on campus and started a hoop group. I was making it selling hula hoops to help pay for groceries and school supplies! I would drive home to CT on the weekends and hang out with friends there. Shortly after I made my first hula hoop, I was invited to a barn party where this guy named, Zach Deputy, was playing a private show. I almost didn’t go to that party, and if I hadn't, my life would look a lot different.
That night I saw this girl hula hooping on one leg and I walked straight up to her and said, “How’d you learn to do that?” I took my first hoop lesson with Maia, who later became (and still is) one of my best friends. We ended up co-creating a hula hoop and performance business together called, Shiva Shakti Hoop Dance.
After I graduated college, Shiva Shakti Hoop Dance and Sheryl Sapphire Photography were my main gigs. I also worked for a circus collective, called Om-Fly, with all of my friends. The tribe that I ended up working with out of college were like-minded humans. We had a team of us doing Om-Fly and we were also doing a lot of non-profit work for a beautiful place called The Sanctuary at Sheparfield’s. During that time, I was utilizing all of my skills and sharpening new ones. Between photography, circus, teaching dance, working with children, event coordination and marketing… I had my hands full. Good thing I sort of knew how to juggle ;) I call hula-hooping my portal to self-discovery.
The circus set me free.
The circus helped me re-wild and re-discover myself through the art of play. By rediscovering that place of freedom within myself, I have continued to be able to help liberate others. There is more to the story of the "Circus Portal” that helped guide me to the path of the priestess and healing arts, but that story is for another time. Perhaps a book.
What I will say is that when Spirit guides and you listen… your life is a series of magical breakdowns and breakthroughs.
The past 5 years of my life have been the most beautiful initiations into this nomad lifestyle and work as artist and healer. I have no idea what I’m doing, I st know that if I keep showing up for myself and others, the answers will continue to present themselves.
I am co-creating with Goddess.
I trust the whole wild mystery.
Share with us your most difficult moment and how you came out shining?
I don’t think I have ONE most difficult moment. I think I have a collection of crazy difficult moments, that were only there to help break me open. The difficultly comes in waves. It ebbs and flows with its qualities of intensity. When we unplug ourselves from the structure that’s been in place since before we were born, there’s bound to be an unraveling process.
Remembering our power as sovereign beings.
A crazy journey back to the HEART…
Tell us about the nomad life.
I WOULD NOT TRADE IT FOR ANYTHING. Ultimately, I would love to settle down because I am a home body... But right now... I’m having too much fun! I’m learning more about myself and the world around me than school could have ever tried to teach me. I am learning how to ground myself into my own being. I’ve learned how to feel at home anywhere I am.
Home is a state of mind, for sure. I have tribe everywhere, and I’m grateful for the places and spaces I’ve been able to plug in and rest my bones.
This lifestyle has deepened my trust.
Trust in myself.
Trust in whatever.
Forces that guide me.
Trust in MONEY.
Trust in job security.
Trust in the sacred law of reciprocity...
I used to get really worried about money and what’s going to happen next.
I know that all I have to do is stay grounded and be in integrity and watch as the Universe gifts me magic.
My favorite mantra these days?
“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you…”
Any travel recommendations?
Bali... Bali is always a good idea. Bali changed my life. I really can’t get into how or why because my close encounters with Spirit are profoundly personal. I share the stories when I think they have a safe place to be heard. All I have to say is that place is an energetic power center and I may never be able to understand what happened to me there. I will never be the same. Bali Ma has inspired me to embody Her wisdom and has given clear confirmation of the path I’m on. She (Bali Ma) taught me that when I align with Love and Devotion, everything else falls into place.
...when Spirit guides and you listen... your life is a series of magical breakdowns and breakthroughs.
When we unplug ourselves from the structure that has been in place since before we were born, there’s bound to be an unraveling process.
As a photographer, how do you do things differently than the norm?
I ritualize most things.
So, my photography sessions are also a sacred ritual. We talk about intentions for the shoot in the beginning, and I ask the land that I shoot on for permission. I honor the ancestors of that land by saying “Thank you” or putting down tobacco after the shoot is over.
The sessions tend to be healing sessions where me and my client really open up to each other and have heart shares.
I usually only shoot at sunrise or sunset. The sunrise shoots are always extra magic.
My photography sessions are also a sacred ritual.
All of my memory cards are numbered and attuned to angel numbers! I also do a lot of shoots aligned with the moon cycle. If we are shooting on a special day, I am careful about the energy we call in during the shoot, etc.
Everything about it is very intentional, even my editing process. Before I engage in my computer work, I’ll practice yoga or dance, and put on some headphones with music or an audiobook and use the editing time as a meditation. I send the clients I have worked with long distance Reiki and say some prayers about their shoot. I ask that the shoot bless their experiences with more abundance, or perhaps that it hel uncover hidden gems of self-love.
My photography and biz practices are just part of my overall practice. To create from a place of love. To connect authentically. To ask for help when I need it.
What helps you be a soul+worker?
The book, Outrageous Openness. It’s a great reminder of the things we all already know.
Words to live by?
Embrace your Divinity.
Fall in love with this affable mystery.
Live in Love and Devotion, keeping hearts wide open.
...or a quote from my journal...
I’m saving the world… starting with watering my house plants.
Lila DeLieto (formerly Sheryl Sapphire) is a benevolent witch who lives her life in service to the arts. She is a photographer, writer, dancer, energy healer, and circus freak. The planet is her playground and God/Goddess is Her guide.