About Phil

I’m a coach, spiritual companion, editor and author, and I’m executive director of Underhill House, a quiet space in inner-city Seattle where people can pause to pray or meditate. Also, I help lead the contemplative prayer group at St. Marks Episcopal cathedral in Seattle every Tuesday evening. I’ve been teaching and practicing mindfulness for three decades, much of that using centering prayer. For just as long, I’ve been in publishing and software development. Recently, I was editorial director at Spiritual Directors International, including being editor in chief of their esteemed journal Presence. Before that, I was director of content for Patheos, the huge online home of conversation on faith, with sections ranging from Catholic and Evangelical to Pagan and Atheist. Before that I was the editor at book publisher Paraclete Press. Before moving to Seattle, I was on the leadership team at St. Lydia’s Dinner Church in Brooklyn, NY. I’ve been a political party leader, videographer, web developer, tech journalist, punk roadie, software designer, sheepherder, stockbroker and downtempo radio DJ. I used to say the common thread was the process of learning about stuff, figuring it out and explaining it to others. Now I realize I have very little figured out, and hope only to muddle along with my values intact, and walk the road with others.

In this world filled with unfathomable waste of potential, lately I’ve been coming to focus on human flourishing, hoping to help people experience their world as substantially friendly, and feel they belong — belong to the global community of humans and to a local community that shares responsibility for each other. This is achieved primarily through dispelling or embracing differences — de-othering people. This means helping people see and focus on similarity rather than difference, on building a sense of communal connection with humans across the globe, and with the planet itself.

What is this Quiet Your Life project -— the coach/mentoring and the upcoming book — and why now? Most of my life, I’ve worked on other people’s projects, and while they were all worthy, I deeply believe the only path forward for our society is to cultivate groundedness and reorient toward love, and that people who do these things are more effective with more happiness and contentment, which is the only chance of improving the world long term. I was raised atheist and have been a formal part of three Christian denominations (none being the former faith of my parents) and a Buddhist sangha. And I’ve experienced so many other faith communities! Spanning all of this is a 30 year meditation practice. Throughout, I’ve noticed and explored how different traditions address questions of groundedness, meaning and serenity, and I want to do my part to cultivate groundedness and reorient our society toward love. Please join me in this work!

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Outdoor photo: © 2006 Dustina Wessman-Smerdon