My guest today is Teresa Pasquale Mateus, a trauma specialist, contemplative practice teacher, author and co-founder of Mystic Soul Project, an organization that engages in a People of Color (POC) - Centered Approach to Action/Activism and Contemplation/Mysticism. Teresa has written two books, Sacred Wounds: A Path to Healing from Spiritual Trauma and Mending Broken: A Personal Journey Through the Stages of Trauma & Recovery. We cover a lot of ground in our conversation. Teresa shares how the discovery of contemplative practices were integral to her healing process, the significance of language on the spiritual path, her work as a trauma specialist with combat veterans, at Standing Rock and Charlottesville. And lastly, something that I particularly thrilled about, Teresa shares with us about her latest endeavor, Mystic Soul Project and the buzz around the Mystic Soul Conference, a POC-Centered gathering of voices, practices and dialogue on contemplation, action and healing.
If you are a regular listener to the Contemplify podcast, you might be scratching your head and wondering why I am pairing a drink with this conversation. Let me explain. My pal Mark Longhurst runs the top-notch website OrdinaryMystic.net reached out to me some time ago inquiring if I’d ever consider being interviewed on Contemplify so my fellow contemplatives could get a better sense of who I am. I agreed on the condition that Mark be the one to take interviewer reins. So today I am in the hot seat. My guest today...is me and Mark Longhurst is behind the microphone.
If you have ever wondered who is this fella that shovels the path to the Contemplify basecamp then this will be a good snapshot. Mark opens the space for me to share my own contemplative journey, answer my favorite interview questions, my fascination (which is the kind way of saying obsession) with a Norwegian author, and to land on my top 3 dream guests.
"Written with charming simplicity and wry humor, Midlife is a philosophically rich source of what might be called 'the higher life hacks' – reflective ways of dissolving the sense of emptiness and regret that tends to hit each of us with the onset of middle age. A work of disarming wisdom."
- Jim Holt (author of Why Does the World Exist?)
Have you ever asked yourself, what would my life have been like if I’d gone down another career path? Or wished you could release some past grudge that sits on your shoulder like a squaking parrot? The Contemplify conversation today revolves around questions of meaning, purpose and regret. My guest today is Kieran Setiya, professor of philosophy at MIT. Our conversation today revolves around his latest book, Midlife: A Philosophical Guide, which outlines a helpful framework for wrestling with existential questions.
Kieran Setiya is a philosopher who enjoys witty banter as much as delving into the depths of foundational life questions. In our conversation we dive into the waters of the stereotypes of philosophers, the rules for midlife crisis prevention, what we can learn from John Stuart Mill’s nervous breakdown, and what superman can teach us about the afterlife. What makes Kieran’s book Midlife sing is his curiosity and succinct wordsmithing that gleefully ushers you along through the difficult internal terrain. Which you will get a taste of in this conversation. Midlife is for any of you in the early stages, the thrush, or retrospect of the midlife years. Midlife creates a framework for the dizzying existential questions that arrive from new angles as the years accumulate.
Learn more about Kieran Setiya a ksetiya.net.
“Who touches this touches a man. Incredibly moving, risk-taking, original, and deep. I was in tears a number of times while reading it. Magnificent.”
- Barry Spacks
Teddy Macker is a guileless poet who incarnates the beauty and struggle of both the internal and external landscapes of this world we share. I would be lying if I didn’t say that one of my new life goals is buy Teddy a Lagunitas IPA and shoot the bull on all of life’s matter late into the evening. Macker is quick to laugh, invoke the wisdom of elders, and see the truth in and lurking behind boulders and cottonwood trees. His book of poetry, This World, is masterful.
Like Barry Spacks' words regarding (mentioned above) This World, tears will find you as you saunter through Macker’s poetry, and you will find yourself returning to it time and again. In this conversation, Teddy and I talk about Barry Spacks’ impact on him, how he holds the sacred and the sensual hand in hand, we bond over our mutual love for the music of Greg Brown, and of course, we are privileged with Teddy reading us some of his poems from This World.
You can learn more about Teddy by reading This World. (Please excuse the number of links to purchase This World, I am just such a big admirer of this book and man that I think everyone should have a copy. Buy yours here.)
“Mark, reading the poetry of Teddy Macker who I will interview on Monday. His poetry stops time. Equal parts Wendell Berry, Gary Snyder, St. Francis and yet completely his own man. I can't recommend enough him. His 'poem for my daughter' was my gateway, and the tears haven't stopped since. I've put a copy of his book, This World, in the mail for you. Best read in the still of night when the boys are in bed and a taste of whisky is not far from your lips.”
What you just heard was a text I sent my brother before I interviewed the orchardist, college lecturer and poet, Teddy Macker.
This mini-episode is just a taste of Teddy’s poetry. My full interview with Teddy Macker will be released tomorrow (and it includes more poems too). So for now, sit back, sip on something slowly and let Teddy’s words wash over you. Here is Teddy Macker reading ‘A Poem for My Daughter’ from his book, This World.
The winding road of life leads you to beautiful vistas and the shallows of hardship. Tracy Cochran shares her experiences of the vistas and the shallows in our conversation. We touch on the practices that enliven us, vulnerability as a superpower and how she got involved in her work at Parabola Magazine. One thing that particularly struck me about Tracy, was her incredible capacity for deep listening. After hearing our conversation, you will bear witness to the depth that she shares in her words, written or spoken.
Tracy Cochran is the editorial director of Parabola magazine, a magazine holds the sweet spot of being the meeting ground for all of the world’s great spiritual traditions, as they illuminate the central questions of human existence. Tracy’s articles have appeared in all of the best publications, she teaches mindfulness meditation and mindful writing classes.
“Cal Newport is a clear voice in a sea of noise, bringing science and passion in equal measure. We don’t need more clicks, more cats, and more emojis. We need brave work, work that happens when we refuse to avert our eyes.”
Where is your attention right now? Do you find your attention span shrinking in the era of sound bites and clickbait headlines? Do you turn towards social media when a moment of boredom arises? Cal Newport has written a book that will upturn your perception of how you ‘should’ be engaging in this era of constant connection. His book is called Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. Be forewarned, our conversation and his book will likely reshape your relationship with social media, personal habits and rituals and your overall approach to the work day. Thanks to Cal’s book, I have reimagined my tasks lists for the workday, creating rituals for focus, and walk around the social media sinkhole of attention. And Cal has one of my all-time favorites lines so far on the Contemplify podcast...
We do need more brave work, and Cal has questioned assumptions and charted a path for a focused approach to life. In our conversation, Cal shares the importance of Deep Work for personal and societal improvement in life and at work, the rituals of his day that create the most ample space of Deep Work, how is New York Times Op-Ed piece on social media caused such a stir (and backlash) and gives an example of what one comedian friend of his accomplished after they quit Twitter and devoted that time to Deep Work. You might find yourself making some major digital shifts after listening to this conversation.
Now for the official bio on Cal Newport is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University. In addition to studying the theoretical foundations of our digital age, Newport also writes about the impact of these technologies on the world of work. His most recent book, Deep Work, argues that focus is the new I.Q. in the modern workplace and that the ability to concentrate without distraction is becoming increasingly valuable. He previously wrote So Good They Can’t Ignore You, a book which debunks the long-held belief that “follow your passion” is good advice, and three popular books of unconventional advice for students. (from calnewport.com)
You can learn more about Cal and his work at calnewport.com.
Barbara Holmes served as president of United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, as well as professor of ethics and African American religious studies. She was ordained in the Latter Rain Apostolic Holiness Church in Dallas, Texas, and has privilege of call in the United Church of Christ and recognition of ministerial standing in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). In addition to her work with law firms, Holmes has worked with homeless missions, HIV/AIDS ministries, and international ministries in Kenya (the Presbyterian Church of East Africa) and Japan. The author of five books and numerous articles, her most recent publications include: Dreaming (Fortress Press, 2012),Liberation and the Cosmos: Conversations with the Elders (Fortress Press, 2008), and Joy Unspeakable: Contemplative Practices of the Black Church (Augsburg Fortress, 2004). Holmes earned an MS from Southern Connecticut University, an MDiv from Columbia Theological Seminary, a PhD from Vanderbilt University, and a JD from Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University. (adapted from The Association of Theological Schools' website)
In this episode, Barbara shares about her own contemplative lineage, reflections on the contemplative aspects of the Black Lives Matter movement, the contemplative and social impact of Kendrick Lamar and Beyonce, and her sense of hope in the next generation.
Dr. Amy Oden is a Professor of Early Church History and Spirituality at the Saint Paul School of Theology. In her latest book Right Here, Right Now: The Practice of Christian Mindfulness Amy draws upon the roots and connection points of mindfulness found in the Christian Tradition. In this episode, Amy shares what ‘mindfulness’ means to her, her own practices to cultivate mindfulness, and the brilliance of Jesus using mindfulness metaphors such as ‘asleep’ and ‘awake’ in his teaching (and some practical application points of those metaphors in our current technology saturated state).
Jeff Johnson has surfed distant shores, climbed mountains you’ve never heard of and travelled to corners of the world most people couldn’t place on a map. All of this is impressive, but what is most striking about Johnson is his authenticity. This genuineness comes across in his photography, his film 180 South and his book Bend to Baja. He is not dazzled by the flash of today, but seeks the wisdom of those who are further down the path of life. In our conversation Jeff shares why he gets up early every day, how skateboarding shaped his outlook on life and work, and the inherent value of friends and mentors who inspire you to take stock of how you are living your days.
You may find yourself as I did after this conversation, stepping outside under the night sky with your bare feet on the earth just happy to have another day on this shared planet of ours. You can learn more about Jeff at jeffjohnsonstories.com.
Follow Jeff on Instagram: @jeffjohnson_beyondandback
“The Sacred Enneagram is not a just book about an ancient personality framework with a funny name. It is a roadmap to self-understanding written by one of the great spiritual practitioners of my generation. Read it now and you can thank me later.”
How well do you know yourself? Are you able to name your basic desire or fear? The questions that linger around identity and intrinsic drives can be instigation for liberation, but without the right toolkit one may rather stick their head in the sand.
Enneagram teacher Chris Heuertz will help you understand how to utilize the Enneagram to work with these questions with a deeper sense of self-awareness to find your way home to your True Self. He is the author of The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth. For those of you asking, what the hell is the Enneagram anyways? In this episode, Chris will give you a brief and basic overview of the Enneagram as the nine classic archetypes of human character structure, and then furthers the Enneagram conversation by mapping out how the Enneagram can uniquely deepen you on the contemplative path. On multiple occasions in this episode you will hear my own a-ha moments as Chris’ teachings sink in. Also…the Sacred Enneagram drops today! So get your copy wherever beautiful books are sold!
‘What Richard Foster and Dallas Willard were to my generation – prime tour guides to the spiritual life – I hope and believe Carl McColman will be for the next generation. If you don’t know about him and his work, you should.'
Have you ever had a dream that shook you to your core? Or been given a book at the exact time you needed it? I know I have and if either of those ring true for you, you will raise your pint glass and cheer with what your ears are hearing from my guest today, Carl McColman.
Carl McColman is an author, blogger, speaker and Lay Cistercian. Carl also has a contagious laugh. I’m sure you’ll hear my own laughter deepen and extend with each one of Carl’s delightful guffaws. But back to Carl’s work...Carl has written numerous books including Christian Mystics: 108 Seers, Saints and Sages, Befriending Silence, Answering the Contemplative Call and The Big Book of Christian Mysticism. You can also find his writing on Patheos, in The Huffington Post, and Contemplative Journal. In our conversation here, Carl and I dive into the various meanings of the word ‘contemplative’, how a dream at the age of 18 inspired a friend to give him a copy of Evelyn Underhill’s classic book Mysticism, how his image of the Divine changed and deepened in the midst of loss, and the humbling and difficult work of loving our enemies. You can learn more about Carl at carlmccolman.net. Twitter: @CarlMcColman Facebook: @CarlMcColman
‘Christopher Pramuk’s latest work, At Play in Creation, offers a truly stunning introduction to the long-held but often forgotten Wisdom tradition. Priming our theological imaginations with the rich and sensuous language of poetry and with Merton’s poem Hagia Sophia as a guide, Pramuk opens us to the divine music hidden in each of our encounters and allows us to glimpse the unseen Reality whom Merton calls Sophia.'
Christopher Pramuk is the author of Sophia: The Hidden Christ of Thomas Merton and Hope Sings, So Beautiful: Graced Encounters Across the Color Line. I highly recommend you locate either one of these books as you also pluck the focus of our conversation today, At Play in Creation: Merton’s Awakening to the Divine Feminine. Chris Pramuk is a theologian, author, scholar and lifelong musician who just joined the faculty at Regis University as chair of Ignatian Thought and Imagination, and associate professor of theology. Chris is the type of professor you wished you had in college. In our conversation Chris shares how he uses Pink Floyd in his teaching, the suffering of God with humanity as we explore the meaning of Sophia-Wisdom, and we conclude our conversation with a story about Chris’ son, Henry, who when he was two and a half exemplified Sophia-Wisdom breaking forth on the shores of Lake Michigan. With that, here is my conversation with Chris Pramuk. You can learn more about Chris at hopesingssobeautiful.org.
Tasha Wahl is the founder and creator of The Butterfly Effect whose mission statement is so lovely I want to share it here...The Butterfly Effect is an underground movement redefining philanthropy one “butterfly” at a time by providing individuals the opportunity to give to a cause close to their heart. Harnessing the power of social media, we create a ripple effect of contagious generosity through our Butterfly Drops and Wahl2Wall installations. We recognize that we can be the change we want to see in the world by facilitating small acts of kindness, encouraging generosity, and promoting creativity. Learn more at butterflyeffectbethechange.com.
Tasha founded the Wahl Foundation with her husband Erik. They are committed to producing positive change in order to create a better world. Together, they helm The Wahl Group (www.theartofvision.com), which challenges corporate America to shift business-as-usual thinking to a more dynamic paradigm of holding the tension between success and significance.
My guest today is the multifaceted Jules Evans and trying to encapsulate Jules in a brief bio is near impossible, but let me start by sharing some his accolades: his first book, Philosophy for Life and Other Dangerous Situations was a Times Book of the Year in 2013 and was integral to the revival of Stoic philosophy that you see happening today, he is a research fellow at the Centre for the History of Emotions, Queen Mary University of London where he researches well-being and ecstatic experiences, while also diving into ways to improve mental health in different countries and cultures. On top of that Jules runs the London Philosophy Club which is the biggest philosophy club in the world. Above all of these pats on the back, Jules Evans is a curious, humble, and damn fine human being. The focus of our conversation is his new book, The Art of Losing Control: A Philosopher’s Search for Ecstatic Experience. This book and this conversation is exactly why Contemplify came into being; what do you do when the status quo is no longer working and you want to go beyond mere egoic satisfaciton? This episode is for all of you feel like the schools of thought in your midst taste like a stale cracker. In our conversation Jules shares about his Near Death Experience, how Stoicism helped him form identity and why he still felt called beyond the Stoic container to experiences of surrender, and why despite all of this deep searching, Jules feels like he wrote a book for people like himself, which he calls the ‘spiritually mediocre’. As always, links from this conversation, Jules’ books and website (philosophyforlife.org) and highlights from this conversation will be available at contemplify.com
Laura Dunn is the documentary filmmaker behind the film The Unforeseen, which took home the Independent Spirit Truer Than Fiction Award and was executive produced by Robert Redford and Terrence Malick. Laura’s latest film, Look & See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry in which she teams up Redford and Malick again, is the focus of this conversation. Put this stunningly beautiful documentary on your watch list. I’ve been an ardent follower of Wendell Berry’s work for years and this film is a glimpse into the groundedness of place, community and family that Berry poetically captures with his typewriter. Look & See is not a romanticized version of the farmer poet, but an invitation to see the hardship, character, struggle, neighborliness and rooted love that makes up the agrarian lifestyle in Henry County, Kentucky. Laura Dunn and her crew made a generous film. I say generous because Look & See freely gave me space to ask the beautiful question - how then shall I live?
Laura and I talk about Wendell and Tanya Berry’s impact on her life, Wendell’s idea of the union of life and art, marriage as a creative partnership, the unspoken farm crisis and its implications for young farmers today, where she finds hope from the Wendell and Tanya Berry and in her community and why are there so many comedians listed in the end credits of Look & See.
Look & See is not only just for those with a deep admiration for the work of Wendell Berry, but for those seeking to live an engaged life with a sense of place, belonging, and interdependence with the land and community they are rooted in. Go to lookandseefilm.com to pre-order the film, to find out which theaters are screening it and how you can host a screening of Look & See. You can learn more about Laura Dunn at lookandseefilm.com/team and get the show notes for this episode at contemplify.com
Hey everyone, welcome to another episode of Contemplify, the basecamp for budding contemplative whose pursuit is to kindle the examined life through conversations with creatives, scholars and practitioners. My guest today is Andrew Hinton, filmmaker and co-director of the sublime Emmy-nominated documentary film, Tashi & the Monk. If you haven’t seen Tashi & the Monk, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s moving, funny, wise and at times heart-breaking. This film follows former Buddhist monk Lobsang (who was trained under the guidance of the Dalai Lama by the by) who created a community of orphaned and neglected kids in the foothills of the Himalayas and a precocious 5-year old, Tashi, who just joined the community and is trying to find her way. I can’t say enough about this film, it brought tears to my eyes and a shot of joy to my soul. Andrew shares the serendipitous story of how he came to meet Lobsang thanks to an email from billionaire Peter Thiel’s foundation, the impact Lobsang and Tashi had on him, and how he got started in filmmaking by interviewing people in the lobby of an apartment building. Andrew Hinton makes beautiful films, and you can see this one, Tashi & the Monk, for free by going to this episode’s shownotes at contemplify.com/andrew. See this film, actually pause what you are doing now and watch it and come back around to this interview later….okay, you’re back, you should also head over to tashiandthemonk.com to find out how you can support this community that Lobsang created and the children bring to life.
Who is there that can make muddy water clear? But if allowed to remain still, it will gradually become clear of itself. Who is there that can secure a state of absolute repose? But let time go on, and the state of repose will gradually arise.'
- Lao Tzu
It’s graduation season. It is all too likely that someone in your circle is graduating from an esteemed institution, be it a university or local high school, or kindergarten. And with graduations comes graduation speakers….politicians, celebrities, authors or that one guy who did that one thing.
I was trying to imagine who I would like to see give a graduation address that would be a bit more off the beaten path, one that would not cater to a limited view of success or climbing the slick ladder of fool hardy self interest.
Bill Murray immediately jumped to mind, Alice Walker came next, then Lao Tzu...
Obviously Lao Tzu has not been taking any personal speaking gigs these last 2500 years. But I was smitten with the idea of it, so… in his stead, I will be sharing what Lao Tzu wrote on the doctrine of inaction, what I imagine was a graduate speech a few millenia ago.
‘This is a magnificent book [The Buddha Walks Into the Office] that just happens to be truly fun to read. Accessible, urgent, and life-changing.’
Lodro Rinzler is a practitioner and teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage, the founder of the MNDFL meditation studio (which New York Magazine just named the best place to learn meditation in NYC) and the author of numerous books including; Love Hurts: Buddhist Advice for the Heartbroken, the bestselling book, The Buddha Walks into a Bar..., and the book that is the focus of our conversation, The Buddha Walks into an Office. This episode was sheer delight and will be of significant interest for those seeking to engage a day at the office as place to cultivate fullness of being. We cover such areas as how a conference call can be an opportunity for virtue, how to relate to difficult coworkers and what we can learn from a man named Tilopa who reached full enlightenment in part by assisting a sex worker. Lodro Rinzler is a teacher who is thoughtful as he is funny. You can learn more about Lodro at lodrorinzler.com or connect with social media: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube. (Also check out this article in the New York Times about MNDFL)
This bonus practice episode invites you to ground your being in contemplating the universe. This practice is from Nancy Ellen Abram's book, A God That Could Be Real (pp. 89 - 90)
‘You will find that your beliefs are enriched by reading Abrams’s [A God That Could Be Real]. I am thrilled that we have the creativity and originality that is exhibited in this book, and I recommend it highly to all, religious or secular, believer or atheist, who are ready to explore honestly their understanding of the divine in our beautiful, expanding universe.’
Nancy Ellen Abrams is the author of A God That Could Be Real. This episode will be of special interest for those who wrestled with the science vs. religion debate wondering if there was another perspective out there that transcends the typical binary conversation on this debate. In this episode, Abrams unpacks a new vision of God based on an agreed upon cosmology from today’s leading cosmologists. The implications have the potential to lead this generation of humans to become the ‘esteemed ancestors of the future’. You can learn more about Nancy Ellen Abrams work at nancyellenabrams.com or follow her on Twitter @cosmicsociety.
‘You get the sense that this guy practices what he preaches. There’s a confidence and peace that inspires.’
David Michie is a presenter, mindful safari guide and author, best known for his novel series The Dalai Lama’s Cat. In our conversation we focused on the importance of meditation through the lens of his book, Hurry Up and Meditate: Your Starter Kit for Inner Peace and Better Health. You will hear David share how to overcome the usual hurdles to starting a meditation practice, how meditation is like going to the gym, the practical benefits he has seen in his own life thanks to his practice and we conclude our conversation with David unpacking the common philosophical statement ‘Know Thyself’ from a non-conceptual perspective. I think you will enjoy the light-hearted yet wise musings of David Michie. To learn more about David’s work, visit davidmichie.com.
Scott Hartley is venture capitalist and author. In 2016 he was a finalist for the Financial Times and McKinsey & Company's Bracken Bower Prize for the best business book proposal by an author under 35. He has served as a Presidential Innovation Fellow at the White House, a Partner at Mohr Davidow Ventures (MDV), and a Venture Partner at Metamorphic Ventures. Prior to venture capital, Scott worked at Google, Facebook, and Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. He has been a contributing author at MIT Press, and has written for the Financial Times, Forbes, Inc., Foreign Policy, and the Boston Review. He holds three degrees from Stanford and Columbia, has finished six marathon and Ironman 70.3 triathlons. He is a Term Member at the Council on Foreign Relations, and has visited over 70 countries. You can learn more about Scott's work at fuzzytechie.com and hartleyglobal.com. (from hartleyglobal.com)
In our conversation we touch on Scott’s interest in Stoicism, how many leaders of the tech world have backgrounds in philosophy, how the liberal arts prepares one for the many ethical questions facing innovation today and how his father in his late 60s designed an app for the iPhone without any prior technical training. I’m going to do a giveaway for a copy of Scott’s book, The Fuzzy and the Techie: Why The Liberal Arts will Rule the Digital World. If you want to enter the giveaway for a chance to get Scott’s book, all you have to do is rate and review Contemplify on iTunes and then email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your biggest takeaway from this conversation. As always, thanks for listening!
"Henry David Thoreau, by no means the most conventional man of his time, lamented on his death bed, “What demon possessed me that I behaved so well.” He would have taken comfort in Holy Fools. They remind us of a deeper sanity that is sometimes hidden beneath apparent lunacy: the treasure of a God-centered life.”
- Jim Forest (Praying with Icons)
Jim Forest is the author of numerous books, including The Root of War is Fear: Thomas Merton’s Advice to Peacemakers. He serves as International Secretary of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship. In this episode, Jim shares tales about his friendships with Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Daniel Berrigan and Thich Nhat Hahn. The gentle straightforward nature of this conversation rallies around a pilgrim way of living in pursuit of embodying love and justice. Jim offers reflective wisdom on marriage, works of mercy, and guidance for those in the earlier stages of life. You can learn more about Jim's work at jimandnancyforest.com.
Russell James Pyle (russelljamespyle.com) is a national touring Musician and Ecopsychologist based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Russell is one of a kind--an ambient folk troubadour, Buddhist, ecopsychologist, flyfisherman, avid hiker, comic book enthusiast, and with deep roots in the Pamunkey tribe. You will find that all of these elements flow through Russell and are expressed articulately through his music. We cover a lot of ground, Russell’s shift into a more contemplative way of being, the appearance of ecopsychology on TV, the joy of hiking alone, how the internal landscape is in relationship to the external and how Russell expresses that through music.