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A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life

4.23 of 5 stars 4.23  ·  rating details  ·  953 ratings  ·  96 reviews
In "A Hidden Wholeness," Parker Palmer reveals the same compassionate intelligence and informed heart that shaped his best-selling books "Let Your Life Speak" and "The Courage to Teach." Here he speaks to our yearning to live undivided lives--lives that are congruent with our inner truth--in a world filled with the forces of fragmentation.Mapping an inner journey that we t...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published October 5th 2004 by Jossey Bass (first published September 22nd 2004)
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The Power of Now by Eckhart TolleLife of Pi by Yann MartelSmall Wonder by Barbara KingsolverA Hidden Wholeness by Parker J. PalmerThe Philosophy of Jesus by Peter Kreeft
2012 Books to Reform a Soul
4th out of 101 books — 13 voters
A New Earth by Eckhart TolleThe Power of Now by Eckhart TolleSmall Wonder by Barbara KingsolverThe House at Pooh Corner by A.A.  MilneLet Your Life Speak by Parker J. Palmer
Books that keep you sane
6th out of 86 books — 13 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,049)
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Elyse
A family member gave me this book as a Christmas gift. She knows that I am at a spiritual crossroads, exploring how to recover my personal balance.

What this book describes is a specific method, referred to as circles of trust, in which people bring their solitude into a community. This is one way for individuals to find integrity between our core selves (which he calls "souls") and our roles (including our jobs).

I was especially touched by Palmer's description of the soul as most like a wild ani...more
Glen Grunau
With his Quaker background and worldview, Palmer has learned to place a great confidence in the "inner teacher" that is within each of us, otherwise known as the "soul". He suggests that the only path to an "undivided life" in which soul and role are joined is to provide space for the soul to speak. I especially appreciated his advice "on "letting things alone" in the lives of other people. In our ego driven attempt to instruct and advise others on how they should live their lives, we leave othe...more
Dennis
"'...it is better to be whole than to be good....'" - John Middleton Murry (p. 8)

"The deeper our faith, the more doubt we must endure; the deeper our hope, the more prone we are to despair; the deeper our love, the more pain its loss will bring; these are a few of the paradoxes we must hold as human beings. If we refuse to hold them in hopes of living without doubt, despair, and pain, we also find ourselves living without faith, hope, and love.' (p. 82)

"The divided life is a wounded life, and th...more
April
I appreciated this book. I didn't take away exactly what Parker Palmer intended, probably. But this week after I finished it, I found myself in situations where I thought, "Honor this person's soul," which, to me, is a deeper way of remembering to honor and respect people in everyday encounters, recognizing they're in progress, just like I am.

Palmer details the Quaker practice of "circles of trust," along with "clearness committees," for much of the book, which I didn't realize gong in. I like m...more
Sara
I've been meaning to read some Parker Palmer, and wound up choosing this one simply because it was available as an audio book and was about the length of a long drive I had to make. The book is primarily focused on the logic behind and the procedures involved in "Circles of Trust," a method of group interaction Palmer relies on to help people discern the direction their lives should take. Palmer runs a retreat center that allows people to come and participate in such Circles of Trust. The book e...more
Floyd
Some good concepts in this book. The circle of trust groups reminded me of group spiritual direction. I'd like to remember some of his thoughts as I pursue this kind of group in the future. Palmer describes the art of listening well by asking open ended questions. This is something I've been practicing in spiritual direction and find myself doing more in conversations with people. I have heard about the clearness committee used by Quakers. As a Quaker, Palmer describes how this works and I belie...more
Patty
This is another in a series of books I am reading for my Vocare (vocation) class. I had heard of Parker Palmer before, but I had no idea how his writing would resonate for me. I feel that Palmer and Brene Brown are telling me the same story using different words. They both recommend that you have to put your life together so it is whole, undivided. Palmer writes in his introduction that: "This book brings together four themes...: the shape of an integral life, the meaning of community, teaching...more
Sean
In A Hidden Wholeness Parker Palmer explains that to have our divided lives become whole we need community. This view of community has a particular shape to it. First is to understand and acknowledge that we live divided lives. Second, we look at how we started out as children living an undivided life that became divided when we started to ignore our own truth. Third, we realize that to rejoin our soul with our role in life we need to combine our solitary journey with relationships to others. Fo...more
Anne
In A Hidden Wholeness, Parker Palmer reveals the same compassionate intelligence and informed heart that shaped his best-selling books Let Your Life Speak and The Courage to Teach. Here he speaks to our yearning to live undivided lives-lives that are congruent with our inner truth-in a world filled with the forces of fragmentation.Mapping an inner journey that we take in solitude and in the company of others, Palmer describes a form of community that fits the limits of our active lives. Defining...more
Leslie Reese
The first gravitational pull I felt while reading this book came when I read the following: “First, we all have an inner teacher whose guidance is more reliable than anything we can get from a doctrine, ideology, collective belief system, institution, or leader.” What followed was a discussion about how we can practice ways of being with each other that support our personal inner compasses and deepen what we mean when we say “community”. Who we are as souls are often suppressed by the roles we p...more
Thom
Some of these ideas are familiar from Parker Palmer, but he elucidates his "circles of trust" most fully here. It is a method of providing a safe space in which one's soul can reveal itself and where one can listen to one's "inner teacher." It is an appealing way to look at teaching in general, but also learning, of course. Palmer's book is easy to read and full of food for thought.
Arthur
As always, Palmer challenges me at some of the deepest levels of my life and vocation. A thoughtful, creative, illuminative philosophical, "how to" book that everyone engaged in working with people—teachers, pastors, social workers, managers—should read and contemplate. It is a distinctly compassionate book that invites us to think about the power of trust in relationship, the practicality of love as a way of life, how to live peacefully and holistically in a world that constantly seeks to divid...more
Juli
I went into this one with pretty high expectations and was pretty disappointed with the results. I disagree with Palmer's theology but also didn't think it was written all that well. He quotes a lot of Christian writers and thinkers but his theology doesn't mention Jesus at all. I thought it was a bit perplexing that he wrote a book that concentrates on becoming our "true selves" and yet he says, "What we name it matters little to me, since the origins, nature, and destiny of [the true self:] ar...more
Cathy
Aug 04, 2014 Cathy added it
A Hidden Wholeness: the Journey Toward an Undivided Life is an amazing book to read during the hardest times in your life as well as the times when you just have a minute to sit and reflect. It is well worth your time to read in parts or all at once.
Chelsea
I took issue with a few of the ideas Palmer put forth but for the most part, it was incredibly challenging and thought provoking. Helpful and practical - a pressing counter-cultural approach to the "fixing" mindset that pervades our relationships with one another. I would like to hear from P. Palmer about whether he thinks there are times for confrontation or wise counsel and how to discern those times and handle them in way that is less invasive.

For the purposes of this book though, very clear...more
Tom Gilmore
Took me months to finish. Chapter 8 includes his take on the quaker clearness committee process which I expect to help guide my participation and leadership in those committees.
Seth Thomas
I look forward to working out these concepts of "circles of trust" in my future work. Implications for small groups, organizational boards, leadership teams, and small business. I grow more and more grateful for Palmer's work.
Zana
Granted, the five-star rating is more for the retreat I went to based on the book than for the book itself. The book is excellent preparation for the Circles of Trust retreat, but it's very much an experiential retreat; you can't get there by reading about it.

I've never had a conversion experience before, and this is a secular book despite my tag of "spirituality". Still, after the retreat I find myself wanting to tell everyone that they should go to one of these workshops. I really feel like I'...more
Jayna
Read as part of church book study. Message was very appropriate and timely.
Jane
At first I struggled to like this book, since I felt that many of the techniques and exercises Palmer suggests for groups would appeal far more to some personality types than others. However, the more I read, the more I saw the care with which the Circles of Trust and other circles are created. He emphasizes personal willingness to be there and allowing each person to find his/her own meaning. He speaks against mandating them. There is a lot here for any facilitator to ponder and consider for im...more
Lorraine Doré
Revelatory and life changing.
Nan
I'm not much of a self help or non fiction reader. Please consider that when you look at my rating. Some of what Parker has to say seems redundant, then again, maybe what he has to say needs to be said over and over again until we get it. I love the passages about not fixing or saving, about deep listening. If you can practice deep listening, you're usually listening to yourself. You're usually at peace with you and others.

I hope to widen my circles of trust. It's the only way to be in the worl...more
Laura
A Friend recommended Parker Palmer's works to me, and this was one of the two books I bought. There's so much here that spoke to me: how to ask open questions, how to hold someone's soul as sacred, and how to create a circle of trust. As a Quaker I understood the underpinnings of his work, and some of his examples of how to translate this to the "real" world without calling it Quakerism made a lot of sense. Beyond this, all I can say is that my response was deeply personal. Highly recommended.
Ben
Palmer's book was not what I expected from his others, and didn't draw me in as a few of his other works have. However, mixed in throughout are a few compelling thoughts, including explorations on what it means to live a life of integrity and undividedness, satire and silence as weapons of nonviolence and political change, and the difficult (yet necessary) task for practitioners of non-violence to live in the tension of what is with what may be...

Worth reading...
Jamie Archer
As one exploring the Quaker way of faith, I found this book helpful in providing a deeper understanding behind the practices of silence. But I think this book is a great read for any person, of any faith. The principles of silence and giving space for others' souls to come forward and show themselves are practices that we could all use a little more. They help to deepen our compassion for others and deepen our understanding of ourselves.
Young
Jun 10, 2009 Young added it
Couldn't get through this book - seemed like one big commercial. There was however, the following quote that I absolutely loved so it made the book worthwhile.

I come together with people who bring out my better self, friends with whom I can be authentic. I make it a point to connect, whenever possible, with people with whom I have a history of shared joy and shared pain, who call forth in me this feeling of safety.

Lisa
This book is written by a Quaker (and I just love a lot of the Quaker way of life) about "circles of trust" and how to create and maintain one. I'm so intrigued and wish I could be part of one! Also, this book is great for me as a therapist and for training therapists about how to hold space for someone to grow on their own. The goal is to live an "undivided life" - no more compartmentalizing, just you being able to be fully you.
Rochelle
This is yet another beautifully written book by Parker Palmer on living one's life authentically. Drawing on his experience as a facilitator for educators and other professionals within the context of the Quaker Circles of Trust, he skillfully presents the fundamental considerations for evaluating and identifying the ways in which an individual might live the truth of their lives more skilfully. Can't praise it enough!!
Joan
Palmer spends about half the book discussing the format and structure of a "circle of trust". It's a really novel idea and the qualities and format can apply to a other types of interaction as well. I especially appreciated the section on how to ask truly open and honest questions of one another. Kinda deep stuff, especially if you're into how to make your relationships with others as authentic and soul-affirming as possible.
Nicole
Honestly, I found this book about connecting with your inner soul to be kind of weird. The concept itself was good but it seemed very drawn out and I found myself reading it simply for the sake of finishing it. If you wanted to lead a "circle of trust" group which allows you to discover your soul through community it is a good 'how to' book complete with a chapter guide in the back of the book.
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Parker J. Palmer (Madison, WI) is a writer, teacher and activist whose work speaks deeply to people in many walks of life. Author of eight books--including the bestsellers Courage to Teach, Let Your Life Speak, and A Hidden Wholeness--his writing has been recognized with ten honorary doctorates and many national awards, including the 2010 William Rainey Harper Award (previously won by Margaret Mea...more
More about Parker J. Palmer...
Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life To Know as We are Known: Education as a Spiritual Journey Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit The Active Life: A Spirituality of Work, Creativity, and Caring

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“Like a wild animal, the soul is tough, resilient, resourceful, savvy, and self-sufficient: it knows how to survive in hard places. I learned about these qualities during my bouts with depression. In that deadly darkness, the faculties I had always depended on collapsed. My intellect was useless; my emotions were dead; my will was impotent; my ego was shattered. But from time to time, deep in the thickets of my inner wilderness, I could sense the presence of something that knew how to stay alive even when the rest of me wanted to die. That something was my tough and tenacious soul.” 25 likes
“Formation may be the best name for what happens in a circle of trust, because the word refers, historically, to soul work done in community. But a quick disclaimer is in order, since formation sometimes means a process quite contrary to the one described in this book----a process in which the pressure of orthodox doctrine, sacred text, and institutional authority is applied to the misshapen soul in order to conform it to the shape dictated by some theology. This approach is rooted in the idea that we are born with souls deformed by sin, and our situation is hopeless until the authorities "form" us properly. But all of that is turned upside down by the principles of a circle of trust: I applaud the theologian who said that "the idea of humans being born alienated from the Creator would seem an abominable concept." Here formation flows from the belief that we are born with souls in perfect form. As time goes on, we subject to powers of deformation, from within as well as without, that twist us into shapes alien to the shape of the soul. But the soul never loses its original form and never stops calling us back to our birhtright integrity.” 4 likes
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