The Contemplify podcast kindles the examined life for contemplatives in the world. Through artful musings & conversations with scholars, creatives, and master teachers each episode delivers a subtly intoxicating* exchange on the contemplative lifestyle with practical takeaways to emulate in daily life. Host, Paul Swanson, is a husband, father and contemplative educator at the Center for Action and Contemplation and co-host of Another Name for Every Thing with Richard Rohr**. *Contemplify is best served with a pint in hand. Please listen responsibly. ** All shenanigans, tom foolery and bally-hoo posted on Contemplify are my own. Contemplify is not representative of the Center for Action and Contemplation or Richard Rohr on any matter.
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Aug 5, 2020

Exploring the subtle sacraments that animate our lives and the process of quieting the mind in words and silence.

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Jul 11, 2020
“The walking of which I speak has nothing in it akin to taking exercise, as it is called, as the sick take medicine at stated hours …but it is itself the enterprise and adventure of the day.”
- Henry David Thoreau
Apr 15, 2020

A plucked musical movement, hairpin poetic turns, mythical stories in rough harmonics. Baptize me into this Kitchen Music Society of Delights and Sorrows. No time like a pandemic to establish a new society. Perhaps by the end of this, you’ll join the membership.

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Nov 13, 2019

"Christian Miller teaches us that the road to virtue lies in humility about our own virtue and an acceptance that others are struggling with their flaws. This is a very valuable book at a moment when our society could use a dose of openness and a sense of forgiveness."

- E.J. Dionne Jr., Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution and University Professor in the Foundations of Democracy and Culture, Georgetown University 

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Oct 15, 2019

"Be like the fox

who makes more tracks than necessary,

some in the wrong direction.

Practice resurrection."

  • Wendell Berry, Manifesto: Mad Farmer Liberation Front

In this episode, we’ll explore the God of tree trimmers and the souvenir of deep breathing.

Oct 2, 2019

Birthdays are akin to over-excited neighbors. You either appreciate their intrusions or avoid them like Homer Simpson does Ned Flanders. I treat birthdays like Flanders. I love a good party, cake, and sing-song version of ‘Happy Birthday’, but I am slow to allow the spotlight to turn squarely onto my face. A strange confession for a guy with a podcast. But I do love the birthday questions...

Sep 12, 2019

"Many poets feel that they know the natural world, Todd Davis has absorbed this world fully into his heart and mind. He is a fine, rare poet."

- Jim Harrison, author of Legends of the Fall

Jul 25, 2019

“Although Manning has been lauded throughout the country for his work — garnering accolades from some of the major poets of our time, like W.S. Merwin, in addition to the numerous awards he has received — he has found his place in this literary life, wearing it now as effortlessly as the patterned chambray shirts he favors. He is a man of the people, intent on bringing poetry and scenes of rural beauty to them, words of the past, but also the present — the poetry of preservation, of all of us."

—Jason Howard, Leo Weekly

Jun 15, 2019

“In that larger tradition of transcendent art, if we let them into our hearts, these new poems from Jericho Brown will awe and unsettle us.”

- Frederick Speers, New York Journal of Books

Jun 8, 2019

I hoped for some last gesture beyond a handshake, writes Chris Dombrowski in Ragged Anthem, a soulful book of longing that is as comic as it is reflective. These poems sing of humankind in need of something it can only seem to get from the natural world, and of how we won t get it until we begin to understand ourselves as natural as any tree or river. Or as Dombrowski himself says, Again / I took daybreak for granted, easy / as mistaking pinecone for wasp nest, / wasp nest for shed antler, antler / for branch. Here, these so-called mistakes make for discovery that approaches the magic of revelation..

–Jericho Brown, author of The Tradition
Jun 1, 2019

"Chris Dombrowski has proven himself to be among the best poets of his generation. As one of those readers who admired and enjoyed his first two books — better put, who has gone to the poems for spiritual sustenance, for wisdom, and for the magic of being transported to the landscapes where the poet makes his life—I’m happy to report that Ragged Anthem continues to sing those essential songs in beautiful and unexpected ways."

– Todd Davis, author of Native Species and Winterkill

May 25, 2019

This series will introduce you to two poets who help me circle the mystery: Chris Dombrowski and Jericho Brown. My hope is that through these conversations you’ll get a taste of poetry as a contemplative gateway. Poetry has played that role for me as a contemplative practice; seeing reality from an angle that I had not yet noticed. Clear enough to see and yet cloudy enough to draw me closer, to engage all of my faculties in this new perception of reality. This practice of poetry drops me into the depth of my self, into the depth of Mystery.

In this trailer Chris Dombrowski reads, ‘The Hunt’ from his latest collection Ragged Anthem and Jericho Brown reads, “Of My Fury” from his latest collection The Tradition

Mar 18, 2019

This final episode of the Life of a Day series is all about you. It is about offering a reframing of your day with a new way of seeing, a new way of showing up as a contemplative in the world.

Feb 22, 2019

“The church is near, but the road is icy.

The bar is far away, but I will walk carefully.”

— Russian proverb

I raise this frosty pint in your direction for  this fifth installment of the Life of the Day series here on Contemplify where I'll be exploring my interpretation of the divine hour called ‘Compline’.

Feb 15, 2019

‘There are two ways to wash the dishes. The first is to wash the dishes in order to have clean dishes and the second is to wash the dishes in order to wash the dishes.’  - Thich Nhat Hanh

My intention here is to be present at hand to the dish in my hand. Perhaps we’ll strike gold today and I’ll communicate some semblance of that in this fourth installment of the Life of the Day series here on Contemplify.

Feb 8, 2019

“Few people know how to take a walk. The qualifications are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much.”

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is the third jaunt of the Life of the Day series here on Contemplify.

Feb 1, 2019

My old pal Thomas Merton wrote, ‘[Contemplation] can be suggested by words, by symbols, but in the very moment of trying to indicate what it knows the contemplative mind takes back what it has said, and denies what it has affirmed.’ do I talk about contemplation then? Briefly.

My intention here is to grasp at words that give shape to the formless abiding, even if only for a moment. If we are lucky here today, I’ll communicate some semblance of that in this second installment of the Life of the Day series here on Contemplify.

Jan 25, 2019

My intention here is to kick off the Life of a Day series in grand style, with coffee. This is the first installment of the Life of the Day series here on Contemplify, which is the reimagining of the Divine Office into my own personal reflective interpretations as a contemplative in the world. The intention is to mark each of the Hours but in a form very different from their regular practice behind monastery walls. In other words, this is what a contemplative rhythm looks like in my particular life.

Jan 24, 2019

How does contemplation appear in the life of your day? I've heard from many of you that this question lingers as you listen to the contemplative echo calling you in your daily life. My hope is that this series will help you answer that question for yourself.

Dec 13, 2018

This episode came to life a month before my newborn son. Inspired by friends, poets and writers I mused over the words to offer my son as he packed up his belongings from the dark warmth of the womb and worked his way into the shivering light of humanity. Finally, I put ink to paper. Once complete, the following letter laid in waiting alongside the clutter of discarded receipts and grocery lists. The sacred and profane cohabiting on my night stand.

Weeks later, my son was born. Upon his entrance into this world, the world’s response was immediate and in kind. Thunder clapped and rain poured in the desert. It’s strange to be here. The Mystery never leaves you alone.

Here is that letter to my newborn son.

Dec 12, 2018

"One of the foremost outsider artists in modern folk."

- The New Yorker

The first time I ever heard the music of Dan Reeder was when someone sent me a link to the video of ‘The Work Song’ (NSFW). Once I heard it, I had to find out who this guy was. I found out that his story is even more interesting than that song. I’ve been trying to set up this conversation with Dan for years, it took the kindness of his record label Oh Boy Records to put us in touch. Dan Reeder has a mind I enjoy being in conversation with, he looks at the world in unique angles (though he would never say that about himself).

Dan Reeder is an American musician and artist working and living in Germany. He has 3 albums and most recently an EP, Nobody Wants to Be You. You can find a book of his artwork entitled, Art Pussies Fear This Book. In our conversation we talk about his life as an artist, how he got connected with John Prine, how his perspective as an artist has shifted over the years and much more.

You can learn more about Dan Reeder's work at

You can follow Dan on social media on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Spotify.

Nov 20, 2018

"Phileena writes here with such simple clarity—and easy readability—because she knows she does not need to prove, convict, or defend anything. Mindful Silence contains not just her wisdom but the spiritual wisdom of the ages that is again standing the test of time and showing itself in the fruits of incarnational holiness. It is the great tradition of action and contemplation again showing itself."

-Richard Rohr, OFM

Eleven years ago I was a work intern at the Center for Action and Contemplation. A season of life that would unknowingly tether me to the contemplative journey. As a work intern, I lived in community with 6 other interns. If that weren’t enough, we were also the guest house for retreatants. One evening as we were settling into our dinner, there was a knock on our door. I hustled over to welcome our unknown guest, who happened to be Phileena Heuertz. Over the course of the meal we would come to learn about Phileena’s work with folks living in poverty and on the margins. She had just completed the pilgrimage, Camino de Santiago, and regaled us with stories of that experience. It was over the course of that meal that I first recognized the depth of Phileena’s being and presence.

I’m grateful for my friendship with Phileena and the ways our paths have crossed over the years. Phileena has written a book that will surely find its place in the new contemplative canon, Mindful Silence: The Heart of Christian Contemplation. In Mindful Silence she weaves her story, contemplative themes and teachers alongside practices, with the invitation always at hand to take another step into greater healing and wholeness by embodying the contemplative way. In our conversation we sink into the themes of Mindful Silence, how her dog Basil has been a contemplative guide, the passing of one of her mentors Fr. Thomas Keating, and how on a pilgrimage to Assisi, Italy Phileena had an unexpected experience that continues to impart wisdom into her journey. 

Phileena is a founding partner alongside her husband Chris of Gravity: A Center for Contemplative Activism. A spiritual director, retreat leader, writer, yoga teacher and exactly the type of person you want to find yourself in conversation with. Head over to to learn about Phileena’s book. Get a copy for yourself and a friend. This is the type of book that is resonates when read alone and relished when read alongside fellow travelers. 

You can learn more about Phileena Heuertz’s work at, and

You can follow Phileena on social media on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

Oct 9, 2018

Theodore Richards latest work’s A Letter to My Daughters: Remembering the Lost Dimension and the Texture of Life.

Theodore Richards is a philosopher, poet and novelist. He has won numerous awards for his writing, most recently winning the Nautilus Book Award for his book The Great Re-imagining: Spirituality in an Age of Apocalypse. As the founder of The Chicago Wisdom Project, editor of the online magazine Re-imagining: Education, Culture, World, and a board member of Homebound Publications, his work is dedicated to re-imagining education and creating new narratives about our place in the world.

You can learn more about Theodore Richards at, on Facebook, and Twitter.

Sep 18, 2018

I love the kinship one can feel with a poet, author, or musician. The right song or poem can track you down and settle into the liturgy of your life. I count myself lucky to have had that experience too many times to count. I try to keep my ears open enough so artistic expressions can tunnel their way from my ears down to my heart and gut. It was a lovely New Mexican Fall day when one of my favorite poets suggested I listen to the song ‘Sand Hills’. I tracked song the down, put my headphones on, and followed the trails of the melody into the mysterious interior landscape mirrored by lyrical vapors traversing the natural landscape. That was my first taste of Luke Redfield.

Luke Redfield is an American folk singer who hails from my home state of Minnesota and now calls Austin, Texas home. He has crossed the country in true troubadour fashion, honing his craft along the way. As his website perfectly states it,

Luke integrates elements of classic folk, indie rock, and alt-country, his soulful songwriting explores the human condition through themes of love and landscape, adventure and inquiry—inviting all who listen to join in the dance of life.

Luke and I talk about our shared Minnesotan roots, how hearing Bob Dylan’s ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ was turnkey moment in his life, what it means to be human, how Walt Whitman hoodwinked Ralph Waldo Emerson and so much more. Luke Redfield has a new EP titled “Love is All Around” being launched into the world on September 21st, you can buy this EP through Luke’s bandcamp site or go to The songs I’ve heard are a treasure. my daughter is already singing along with them.

With that, here is my conversation with Luke Redfield.

Sep 10, 2018

"In Distant Neighbors, both Berry and Snyder come across as honest and open-hearted explorers. There is an overall sense that they possess a deep and questing wisdom, hard earned through land work, travel, writing, and spiritual exploration. There is no rushing, no hectoring, and no grand gestures between these two, just an ever-deepening inquiry into what makes a good life and how to live it, even in the depths of the machine age."

- Orion Magazine

Chad Wriglesworth is a professor (at St. Jerome’s University), literary critic, book editor and writer. What most strikes me about Chad is his love of words. You will hear in our conversation how he lights up on the poetic turn of phrase, or a word that is precise enough to communicate exactly what is intended. Chad compiled and edited the letters for Distant Neighbors: The Selected Letters of Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder. This book is riveting and I begged it not to end. The tone, tenor and rhythm of the letters are the manifestations from the lives of Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder. If you are a fan of this podcast, you are no stranger to hearing about Wendell Berry; Kentucky agrarian, poet, novelist, essayist, to name just a few of his attributes. Gary Snyder is also a man of letters from the same generation and equally as counter-culture but from another slant. Snyder is a poet, Zen Buddhist, essayist and leans into a more hunter-gatherer philosophical stance.

Both Berry and Snyder have shaped the direction of my contemplative approach to not knowing, encouraging the way of ignorance (when ignorance is properly defined) and the practice of the wild. Chad Wriglesworth distills the essence of the selected letters so well in this conversation; he’s attentive, useful, poetic, and relishes the conviviality of the conversation.

To learn more about Chad's work, follow this link.

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