Anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.David Whyte, Sweet Darkness
Stones Across the River
In October 2016, I published my first book, Stones Across the River. The book is a curated and edited collection of my early blog posts centered on the metaphor of life as a process of finding our way across the raging rivers of challenge, one stone at a time. Sometimes we see the next stone promising safe passage, and sometimes we have to make a leap of faith.
The book itself was part of those first faltering steps of someone trying to share the discoveries of failure and opportunity even while navigating the stones hidden in his own raging rivers. Six months before, I launched my website at phillipberry.com with the title Orient Yourself serving as the call to action and the tagline.
At the time and on many occasions since, I’ve asked myself “why?” There was no commercial purpose or aspiration. These posts have nothing to do with the business of pharmaceuticals or healthcare and there was never any goal of being a best seller or international speaker. The world has plenty of those and I am quite fortunate to not have to rely on my words to support my family.
Follow the Signs
Like much of what I pursue, the blog, the website, the books, and our business ventures, have all stemmed from “follow the signs” moments. Those tugs, nudges, small voices, dead ends, and open windows, that appear along our path serving to move us in one direction or another. Some of us require more nudging than others and we ignore the signs at our peril. Often, the “right” pathways open in a series of “serendipitous” moments and their rightness is generally only seen later as we look in the rearview mirror.
I’ve learned to see purpose in most of what is happening in my life…and the lives of those around me. Rarely does an “accident” not lead somewhere surprising and ultimately, “right.” The words written today in whatever structure or vision often land on others in unexpected ways, times, and interpretations. Often, particularly in the beginning, the “why” of the call is not nearly as important as obedience to the call.
The website and my writing have always been about collecting observations that might help others thrive – that the words might land where they need to at the right time. In this sense, I have always written to myself first and trusted that they will go somewhere, or nowhere, as needed. If they are not helping someone else see or live or love more fully, then they are too small.
Point of View
Lately, I have been fascinated withe notion of “point of view.” Our perspective colors everything we see in known and unknown ways. As a society, we like to criticize “bias” as a dark, nefarious thing, but we can approach nothing without it as it reflects our vantage point, the collection of experiences, knowledge, wisdom, and desires that frame our underlying approach to the world around us. Our point of view is the filter through which we see and receive the world,
When we launched phillipberry.com, we felt that it needed a theme to help identify its center and purpose. As I meandered through a description of why I wanted a website or to write a blog, our designer threw out the “Orient Yourself” concept and I loved it immediately. My original hope was that I would be the one helping with the orientation…au contraire! The title itself remains a reminder to me of my own need for constant re-orientation and that I must first change my own perspective, and heart, before any words are worthy to be shared.
Considering our vantage point, the point of view we hold, to what are we oriented? A powerful aspect of the word “orient” is that it is both positional and directional. On one level, to be oriented is to know where you are – your position in the world and in your own life. At the same time, it also describes the direction you are facing. It is both a point of existence and the horizon to which we look.
Where are you right now? What space do you occupy? This is our point of origin from this moment forward. The sum of our life and who we are, standing in front of the rivers that must be crossed. The single point on the map marking our place in our life and in the lives of everyone around us. Seeing our orientation, our place in the world, clearly, enables us to frame our next steps.
Our directional orientation tells us what matters. Where we keep our gaze reflects what is important to us. Where are you facing? Are you oriented inwardly toward self or outwardly toward something more than self? What is your center? Our orientation defines what it means to be fully alive. What does fully alive mean to you? Pleasure and self-gratification? Purpose and meaning? Your orientation sets your view on the horizon. This point of view sets your place in it. Are you at the center or part of a greater story?
Sometimes we lose the zeal of youthful idealism as we mature. Occasionally, force of purpose overtakes us as we grow into a fuller, more fruitful maturity. Orienting ourself is about finding the edge between the zeal of purpose and the wisdom of our own maturity. Do we have zeal for something beyond self? Are we facing the direction that will bring us fully alive?
Adventures of Our Lifetime
Finding our place in the world and orienting ourselves toward where we are meant to be encompasses the great adventure that life holds for each of us. Thriving is a perpetual process of orienting and re-orienting ourselves to the truth of our reality even as we reconcile our own aspirations with the call of the signs that appear. Life is beckoning us to live it abundantly, even perilously, demanding that we push against the bonds of our desire for comfort.
Next week, Sally and I leave for Italy for a pilgrimage of faith and adventure. As part of this journey, I plan to write daily of what we experience so that any who are interested may follow along. Why? With the simple hope that something we encounter might help in your own efforts to orient yourself amid your own calls to live fully. Alla prossima!