“I think of the analogy of a geode. On the outside, we all look ordinary, like a rock, but when the geode is broken open, when our sense of shame is cracked, like the crystals in a geode, our inner beauty is revealed.”
Those are the words of Dr. Bary Fleet, pastor, adjunct college professor, motivational speaker, tri-athlete, Warwick resident and now, a published author.
You can hear Fleet speak these very words at one of his seminars about your “inner magnificence” or you can read them in the introduction of his new book, “Move Into Your Magnificence: 101 Invitations to a Life of Passion and Joy.”
The book, according to Fleet, offers readers 101 short personal articles and observations on life. Each essay is then followed up with an invitation to action and a guarantee that you will discover a life of love, passion and joy if you choose to accept the invitation.
Fleet is someone who has always enjoyed writing. Before he retired from the ministry, he would write the newsletter cover that would serve as a tease for the Sunday lesson. Fleet would always end these covers with his own signature tag line, “And I’ll be looking for you Sunday.”
After retiring he found that he missed writing the newsletter cover and also having his own tag line. This led him to write just for himself. It wasn’t long after that before people around him began telling him that he should think about putting a book together.
Fleet then began to run the idea of writing a book through his head almost four years ago.
“I started being more intentional about making myself write everyday, even when I didn’t have anything to say,” Fleet said. “I would just sit down and write. I have always prided myself at looking at relatively ordinary things and seeing something unique about them.”
Eventually, things fell into place and the book began to come together. As he worked on the book, Jack Canfield, author of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series, inspired the 101 invitations idea.
As writing the book unfolded, one of the themes Fleet included was gratitude. This ended up fitting well with the launch date, Nov. 25, 2019. Fleet and his publisher, Stillwater River Publications, picked up on the Thanksgiving aspect of the launch date and ran with it.
“When I got to bed really grateful for what I had today instead of angry at what didn’t happen or what happened wrong, I feel a whole lot better,” Fleet said. “And the nice thing is we can choose what we think about, we can choose what we focus on. You can choose to be grateful.”
Fleet’s journey to writing the book was years in the making, and it wasn’t easy. It began all the way back in a small United Methodist Church in Clarksville, Pennsylvania.
Religion has always been apart of Fleet’s life. Before his family’s relocation to Georgia when he was 10, the family lived next to their local United Methodist Church. Fleet’s father would open and close the church on Sunday morning and also build the fires in the church’s coal furnace to heat the building. His grandfather taught the Sunday school class and his mother was the pianist.
Although Fleet spent a great deal of his young life in the church, it wasn’t always easy for him.
“It was always a love-hate relationship with me, with the church,” he said. He was drawn, he said, to the role of faith in the struggle for civil rights and social justice, but found himself at odds with some church doctrine and literal interpretations of portions of the Bible.
Fleet attended Emory University, a Methodist-founded school, after graduating high school. Fleet received his associate degree before receiving his undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia. From there, Fleet went on to attend Duke University for seminary.
Finally he made his way to New England, attending Boston University to earn his doctorate degree. While working toward his doctorate, Fleet accepted an internship in Providence at the Inter Faith Counseling Center. Once in Rhode Island, Fleet fell in love with Narragansett Bay and decided to move to Warwick.
Fleet became the director of the counseling center at La Salette even though he was not Catholic. After spending two decades as a preacher in the United Methodist Church, he left because of the church’s view on homosexuality. He then spent another two decades as a pastor in the United Church of Christ before leaving as well.
Fleet eventually made his way to the Centers for Spiritual Living and Quantum Physics while he and his wife were seeking out a new church to join. This is where he became a licensed Religious Science Practitioner – one drawn, he said, by the pursuit of universal truths rather than dogma.
Fleet also began his own private counseling practice in the late 1980s called Crossroads Counseling, located on Main Avenue in Warwick. Eventually, he found his way to the psychology department at Bryant University, where he still works as an adjunct professor.
Later in life, Fleet was scrolling through Facebook and came across an ad for a triathlon being held in Goddard Park. He wasn’t sure if he was in good enough shape.
Fleet had a panic attack for the first time in the open water swim clinic portion of the triathlon. He was ready to give up until the instructor told him he was a triathlete and they don’t give up. He completed the triathlon to learn he was the oldest participant competing that day.
While channel-surfing at home, Fleet came across the Spartan Races, a series of races of varying lengths that feature obstacles. This was something that interested him, as he and his wife had joined Fitness Adventure gym in Warwick in 2015 while he was training for the triathlon.
This gym changed his thinking and helped raise his self-esteem. Here is where he met Heather Sischo. Sischo, who owns the gym, has been a driving force in Fleets life ever since he joined.
“Joining Fitness Adventure is like being adopted into a big supportive family,” Fleet said. “Heather Sischo is amazing as a coach helping people get in touch with their physical potential.”
Fleet wasn’t sure if could tackle the Spartan Races until he asked Sischo. She was excited that he asked and told him that he absolutely could compete in them.
Sischo set up a plan to compete in all three Spartan races – the Beast in April, the Super in August and the Sprint in November. Fleet completed all three, and the last one in November was held at Fenway Park. This was also on his 70th birthday.
Fleet broke down in tears of joy upon completing the race. All of these moments in his life helped shape him into the person he is now and helped him in finding the motivation to eventually complete his book.
Fleet can be of service to those in need of counseling and can also be booked for motivational speaking seminars. His contact information can be found on his website, DrBaryFleet.com.