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A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  2,942 ratings  ·  233 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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 ·  2,942 ratings  ·  233 reviews

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Sep 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
‘The soul is generous: it takes in the needs of the world. The soul is wise: it suffers without shutting down. The soul is hopeful: it engages the world in ways that keep opening our hearts. The soul is creative: it finds a path between realities that might defeat us and fantasies that are mere escape. All we need to do is to bring down the wall that separates us from our own soul and deprives the world of the soul’s regenerative powers.’

For the past month, I read A Hidden Wholeness: The Journe
Anita Ashland
Dec 28, 2014 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
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 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012, inspiration
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
Glen Grunau
Jul 11, 2009 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
Apr 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Tucker by: August
Shelves: existential, coaching
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
May 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion, non-fiction
"' 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
Haley Hope Gillilan
Nov 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: faith-religion, cnf
Parker Palmer is so wise and eloquent. His thoughts on the soul, community, and wholeness are ones that I’ve been carrying with me for the last few days, and surely will be carrying for a lot longer. It was convicting in some places- I’ve had to ask myself if I have really been holding space for friends and their souls, and if I’ve been quick to ask open and honest questions or if I’ve been asking ones that served my own needs. It’s certainly fit into a lesson I’ve been learning all year long- c ...more
Lisa Lewton
Mar 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read this book to prepare to be part of a Circle of Trust weekend, which adhered to the book. Palmer is a writer that challenges human beings to fully human. His honesty about life and his own story inspires readers to be equally honest. At the aforementioned weekend, I participated in a Clearness Committee. It was a humbling experience; an honor to walk alongside a person in such a sacred way. This book is offers guidance, wholeness and healing for teachers and clergy in particular.
Terri Lynn
May 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I had to read this for one of the graduate classes in my doctorate program. I liked some ideas here such as Palmer's belief that we all have secret lives as children where we go inside ourselves to find the true authentic core and try to quietly pursue that then become divided more and more each year as we grow up and become adults and have our inner authentic "real" selves and an outer shell we put on to make ourselves appear to be what society and other people expect us to be. He also discusse ...more
May 09, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wellspring
I read the first part of this last Fall for Wellspring and then made the mistake of waiting this long before actually finishing the book. I don't think I can effectively review it at this point, but it has some interesting ideas.
Jul 10, 2020 rated it liked it
This book was a little difficult to rate because much of the book borders on Pelaganianism and/or neo-platoninism. However, Palmer seems to be onto some rhythms and understandings of the soul that are helpful.

I think the key would be if we discern that the way out of a divided life and into an undivided life is not through finding inner truth but through abiding in the Truth (Jesus).
Feb 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Did I love this book fully, or did I just wish to become like Parker Palmer? Did I resonate with it fully, or just wish to climb into its pages and have its poetry and thoughtful spirituality become me? Did the book speak to me on a soul-level, or did my ego wish to be associated with this movement and approach? I guess, regardless, this is an absolutely gorgeous work.

This book is about living the undivided life. Being the same person inside as you are on the outside. Resolving the dissonance t
Dec 27, 2012 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
Mar 23, 2013 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
Nov 25, 2016 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
Jun 13, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Mar 20, 2014 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
Neil Harmon
Oct 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Parker Palmer consistently delivers thoughtful, intellectually honest books that speak directly from his personal experiences and reflections. In this book, he talks about the concept of a Divided Life and how to work toward being less divided. Anyone who lives in today's world will easily see how we end up being multiple people and how this is not the ideal state. HE continues discussing Quaker Clearness Committees that can help people involved in sorting out difficult issues or in discerning t ...more
J. Sparks
Aug 24, 2016 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.
Sep 12, 2014 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.
Marco Ambriz
Oct 31, 2016 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.
Craig Delarge
Jan 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very influential in introducing me to Parker Palmer and Quaker thought. I keep this on my iPod and listen to again and again from time to time. Palmer is a thoughtful, wise and insightful mind.
Jan 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Excellent. Everything he writes is well written.
Allen O'Brien
Jun 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book framed a lot for me at this point in my journey in terms of both my work and my self. Deep things I've carried since I was young. To say I'm glad I read it doesn't do justice; I'm grateful.
May 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
I couldn't tell you what this book is actually about. I suppose it is about finding a way by which to navigate our troubled times. At moments, I found myself wishing for more guidance and detail as to how to put a particular concept into practice. In others, I found myself wishing it would get back to the principles rather than detailing particular methods. I wasn't necessarily convinced to agree with all of it, but it is written truthfully and openly in such a way that allows you to engage with ...more
Jerry Rose
Dec 12, 2018 rated it liked it
:How to reunite a wandering soul?
Many people live with a wandering soul by actions not in tune with the soul's desire. This book draws from Quaker clearness committees, where silence and non-accusatory questions are used to approach a personal problem, rather than the haughty desire to give advice based on hasty assumptions made from a self-entitled place. Any advice I do give is not likely to address your multi-factorial consortium of fears and desires. Even if I was your psychosomatic clone, b
Kate Arms
Aug 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Another gem from Parker J. Palmer.

This book starts with an exploration of why it matters that people connect with their whole selves and the inner authority that speaks within them and then offers tools for communities to support individuals hear the quiet inner voice of truth.

Perhaps the most important part of the book is his gentle unfolding of his understanding of that part of a human's being that gets called inner authority, soul, the muse, etc depending on the tradition. Not only does he ho
Jul 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Every time I hear Parker Palmer speak or read his writings I feel like I connect with him. He has a gentle soul that comes through in his writings. In a world full of harshness it’s refreshing to find gentleness. This book resonated with me on many levels. There is nothing quite like living a life with integrity, that is undivided. There is freedom in being exactly who you are. Being your best self requires you to be yourself, but that is easier said than done sometimes when your community or so ...more
Aaron Schuschu
Jun 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Another book for class- this one on the ins and outs of revealing one’s own true self. Annoying for two reasons:

1) Late 90’s/ early 00’s critique of how “school” and “society” murders individual identity while the writer ironically bashes and pathologizes individualism and how if people were real with themselves, they’d be happier- the skepticism of Big Anything that neither political party today owns but both political parties definitely feel.

2) religious bashing of the evils and mind- melds of
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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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56 likes · 27 comments
“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.” 91 likes
“Wholeness does not mean perfection; it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life” 28 likes
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