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A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life

4.2 of 5 stars 4.20  ·  rating details  ·  1,254 ratings  ·  121 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 — 12 voters
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7th out of 87 books — 15 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,935)
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Emma Sea
why why why did I buy this? Did someone rec it to me? I have zero recollection, and yet here it is in my hand as a thing that I own

Got to page 19, and could stomach no more.
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
Anita Ashland
He had me at, "No fixing, no saving, no advising, no setting each other straight," which is the main rule of the "circles of trust" he describes. Most conversation at family gatherings, church coffee hours, break and conference rooms at work, etc. tends to be of the fixing/advising/persuasion variety, with plenty of complexes tossed into the mix. Palmer gives insight into how to instead speak one's truth and engage in "deep speaks to deep" type of listening.

I appreciated his reminder that most o
...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
Drick
I heard Parker Palmer mention this book in a recent podcast and decided to pick it up again. I believe I may have read it years ago, but I am not sure. In the book Palmer outlines the value and the process of what he calls "circles of trust," small groups of people who meet together over a period of time to help one another listen to their "inner teacher" and to follow the leading of their deepest inner being, which he calls soul. In many ways the concept of the circle of trust comes out of Palm ...more
Uintah
Again, due to unusual circumstances, I was unable to finish this book. Parker Palmer's only fault is his propensity to assume that the reader's experience mirrors his own. His insight into elements of human compassion, and his capacity to apply Quaker practice and principles to everyday human interaction for everyone and within community in particular, are delightful and useful.
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
Terry
This is a "how to" book on living life with greater integrity. Parker Palmer is a Quaker and draws many his concepts from Quaker thought. This book helped me better understand strategies for supporting others and how our efforts to comfort others can be perceived as manipulative or as a lack of caring. Palmer talks a great deal about supporting & encouraging the "shy soul" so that people can hear their own inner voice. Other people don't need our opinions, advice, direction, or judgement - t ...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
Maureen
This is a book I read for the UUSGS Book Club. Until retirement, I never belonged to a book club, feeling that I wanted to read what I wanted to read in the small amount of time I could devote to personal reading. This year I took the plunge and am glad I did. I'm not reading much more than I did when I was teaching, but I am more open to heading in new directions. That said, A Hidden Wholeness was well worth the reading time and the discussion was fruitful. At first, I really dragged my feet, r ...more
Laura
I was so excited to read A Hidden Wholeness after reading Palmer's Let Your Life Speak a few months ago. Expecting it to be of the same caliber, I was disappointed with the read. It was somewhat enjoyable, but it wasn't as engaging, enlightening, or inspirational as I had hoped. I felt it repeated much of what was said in Let Your Life Speak. I had trouble following some of his concepts (e.g. the Mobius Strip). A week later, his main concepts don't stick out in my mind. If you're looking for Pal ...more
L
A book about leading an undivided life...a life that is congruent with our inner truth. One of my favorite quotes from this book is on page 181: "A pupil comes to the rebbe and asks 'Why does Torah tell us to place these words upon your hearts? Why does it not tell us to place these holy words in our hearts?' The rebbe answers: 'It is because as we are, our hearts are closed, and we cannot place the holy words in our hearts. So we place them on top of our hearts. And there they stay until one da ...more
Bill Pritchard
If I have used the "it was amazing" rating on a previous book, I may need to rethink my score. This work by Parker Palmer has reached this level for me. I am excited to investigate more deeply the idea of "circles of trust". Perhaps it is because I had just finished "One Square Inch of Solitude", but after quietly contemplating a section I found myself looking for my wife to share the insights that Mr. Parker shares in this remarkable book. So many of use are seeking ways to work and live in way ...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
Kim
Parker Palmer's writing always resonates deeply with me. In his book, The Courage to Teach, I was struck by the concept of creating "communities of truth." In this book, he describes these communities as "circles of trust." For, only when we trust can we be vulnerable enough to share our deepest truths. There is a shift presented here with regard to relationships of any kind. Stop trying to fix, save, advise and start listening and asking open, honest questions. This could be a life-changer.
Bishop Bergland
Well...

For me, the title was more than a little misleading. I so wanted to try reading Parker Palmer again after a bad experience with his work in grad school. What I didn't expect was a step by step manual on how to construct circles of trust that meet regularly - but that's what this book is. That may be fine for some people, but it certainly wasn't what the title and subtitle of the book imply. Perhaps as a result I felt as if I was plodding along while a dead horse was flogged. I'm sure some
...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
Jemma Z
I loved this book, but can see how it appeals to only a very small audience. Most people, I think will find the beginning and ending chapters at the very least quite inspiring, but there is a large section in the middle that deals with facilitating circles of trust that generally would not be useful unless you are maybe clergy or involved in something like this already.

Still, I found it enormously helpful for my own journey to live an undivided life and am glad that I own it in case I need to re
...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.
Eric Black
While there is much to gain from reading Hidden Wholeness, the book is best accompanied by actually participating in a circle of trust described by Palmer. My own experience in such a circle verifies his claims to its power.
Matthew
I finished this book on the day I helped host a Courage and Renewal retreat for district teachers. Palmer's book accurately describes these experiences, called Circles of Trust. This book also speaks to the bigger idea of no longer living a divided life. I think just about anyone can take away essential points from this important resource.
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
Megan
Interesting read. He presents some great ideas but not exactly doable strategies. He speaks about clearness committees and trust circles. Sounds like in order to do these things you need to get together a group of people. Maybe not the best of his works to read if you are looking to take on your own spiritual journey.
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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
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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.” 44 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.” 6 likes
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