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A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life

4.22  ·  Rating Details ·  1,690 Ratings  ·  152 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 take i ...more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published September 22nd 2004 by Jossey-Bass
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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.
Feb 13, 2012 Elyse rated it it was amazing
Shelves: inspiration, 2012
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
Anita Ashland
Dec 28, 2014 Anita Ashland rated it really liked it
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
Glen Grunau
Aug 17, 2009 Glen Grunau rated it it was amazing
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
May 23, 2009 Dennis rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, religion
"' 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
Apr 30, 2016 Tucker rated it really liked it
Recommended to Tucker by: August
The "divided self" refers to the compartmentalization by which we create character or behavior that differs from who we feel we really are. Palmer's practical response is the Quaker "circle of trust" in which a small group witnesses each other's suffering and confusion and seeks to provide clarity, especially through attentive silence, without attempting to "fix" others. These groups work best if there is a skilled facilitator who operates with non-hierarchical leadership and can preserve the de ...more
Dec 27, 2012 Sara rated it liked it
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
Apr 13, 2013 April rated it really liked it
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
Aug 22, 2014 Chelsea rated it really liked it
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
J Gary Sparks
Aug 24, 2016 J Gary Sparks rated it it was amazing
Parker Palmer is a man with a soul, and he discusses the congruity between who we are inside and the work we do in the "outer" life--and it's importance for sanity. We live in a time when pressures from all sides seek us to become what someone or some system wants of us for their advantage. Palmer's work is both a plea to avoid this sickness as much as it discusses some "how-tos" to make this happen.
Mar 21, 2015 Uintah rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
Oct 30, 2016 Phil rated it really liked it
I picked this book up in the spring, when I was tired and a little cranky about teaching, so I had deliberately held off reading it over the summer. However, as the school year started, I felt the need to get myself into a head space for teaching, so this was the right book for me at the right time . While he is used by a great many other people in a great many other set of vocations, Parker Palmer is best known for his work with education and spirituality and that is what I needed to hear about ...more
Nov 25, 2016 Colleen rated it it was amazing
I was fortunate to be reading this book during this election season. Palmer spends much of the book describing circles of trust, a specific group that gathers to help someone who is struggling to come to terms with an issue. There are strict behavior guidelines that do not allow those in the circle to give advice, but rely on those in the circle to be present and ask open questions and be there for that person to find their own truth. Even if you aren't intending to participate in a circle of tr ...more
Dec 22, 2016 Al rated it it was amazing
I was intrigued by the words "Journey toward an undivided life". It hinted at something I was sensing about myself, a tension that I could not resolve. When I finished the book realized I could not resolve the tension, I could only hold it. I learned it is the "third way", the way between "fight or flight." This is so antithetical to our culture which has no patience for such tension. I learned "third way" is the place between what is and what could be. It is the place of peacemaking. It is also ...more
I started reading this book with the expectation that it would be about developing a personal integration between the everyday and spiritual world. It is about that, although Palmer tells how to achieve this wholeness by building and facilitating intentional groups, known as Circles of Trust, which nurture the soul. The Circles of Trust thing did not sound so applicable to me at the moment. But many of the author's thoughts on whole living, the human soul, and communication are valuable.
K.J. Adan
Contains nuggets of greatness

This has some absolutely stunning moments, but it seems to take us a while to travel between them. This is a good book for the current contentious climate in America.

Having said that, I am dismayed by how many books on exploring spirituality seem focused on first world problems. There's nothing wrong with that, but they lack universality.
Marco Ambriz
Oct 31, 2016 Marco Ambriz rated it really liked it
Really great visual illustrations on Integrity and Wholeness as a person and why adults seem to lose this once we leave our childhood. The concept of Vocation vs Career was also powerful in that it reminds us of "calling" as something that is beyond just our jobs or tasks.
Sep 27, 2016 Sarah marked it as to-read
Recommended by Jeff months ago... then I forgot about it until hearing the author on On Being...
Aug 20, 2011 Anne rated it liked it
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
May 16, 2011 Sean rated it liked it
Shelves: spirituality
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
Rick Quinn
Aug 27, 2016 Rick Quinn rated it it was amazing
"By violence, I mean any way we have of violating the identity and integrity of another person. I find this definition helpful because it reveals the critical connections between acts of violence large and small, from dropping bombs on civilians halfway around the world to demeaning a child in a classroom. Most of us live our lives in the home or classroom or workplace. We play bit parts in the great global drama. But the choices we make in the micro arenas of life contribute, for better or for ...more
Jordan Magnuson
This book is, in some ways, Parker Palmer's magnum opus: a book about integrity, wholeness, how one might go about living an undivided life in the world, both as an individual, and as a member of a larger whole. It is at once grand in scope, and refreshingly pragmatic. At it's core, it outlines a few simple but specific practices for listening and being together that have been used in Quaker community building for many generations.

Having now had a few occasions to witness and participate in the
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
Jan 30, 2015 Drick rated it really liked it
Shelves: personal-growth
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
Leslie Reese
Oct 20, 2014 Leslie Reese rated it really liked it
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
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
I'm always torn when I read Parker Palmer. Is he a hippie turned self-help guru who is banking on a few simple ideas or is a writer who plumbs the depths of the human soul? Obviously, I tend to fall in the latter camp or I wouldn't keep reading his books, essays, and articles. However, part of me is still skeptical.

If you've read Palmer before or heard him in a Ted Talk or on an episode of OnBeing, you are familiar with his ideas: showing up as your whole self, life on the Möbius strip, "circles
Sep 13, 2014 Floyd rated it liked it
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
Jan 14, 2015 Terry rated it really liked it
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
Aug 05, 2016 Arthur rated it it was amazing
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
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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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“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.” 61 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.” 10 likes
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