Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation / Edition 1

Hardcover (Print)
Buy Used
Buy Used from BN.com
$11.15
(Save 41%)
Item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging.
Condition: Used – Good details
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $7.15
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 62%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (28) from $7.15   
  • New (15) from $10.82   
  • Used (13) from $7.15   

Overview

"Is the life I am living the same as the life that wants to live in me?" With this searching question, Parker Palmer begins an insightful and moving meditation on finding one's true calling. Let Your Life Speak is an openhearted gift to anyone who seeks to live authentically.
The book's title is a time-honored Quaker admonition, usually taken to mean "Let the highest truths and values guide everything you do." But Palmer reinterprets those words, drawing on his own search for selfhood. "Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it," he writes, "listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent."

Vocation does not come from willfulness, no matter how noble one's intentions. It comes from listening to and accepting "true self" with its limits as well as its potentials. Sharing stories of frailty and strength, of darkness and light, Palmer shows that vocation is not a goal to be achieved but a gift to be received.

As we live more deeply into the selfhood that is our birthright gift, we find not only personal fulfillment. We find communion with others and ways of serving the world's deepest needs.

A Compassionate and Compelling Meditation on Discovering Your Path in Life

With wisdom, compassion, and gentle humor, Parker J. Palmer invites us to listen to the inner teacher and follow its leadings toward a sense of meaning and purpose. Telling stories from his own life and the lives of others who have made a difference, he shares insights gained from darkness and depression as well as fulfillment and joy, illuminating a pathway toward vocation for all who seek the true calling of their lives.

"Parker Palmer's writing is like a high country stream-clear, vital, honest. If your life seems to be passing you by, or you cannot see the way ahead, immerse yourself in the wisdom of these pages and allow it to carry you toward a more attentive relationship with your deeper, truer self."—John S. Mogabgab, editor, Weavings Journal

"An exuberant and passionate book. I was deeply moved and I cannot, nor do I want to, shake off the haunting questions that it raises for me. This book penetrates the soul, and it will definitely stir you to explore more of your own inner territory. What an extraordinary achievement."
—Jim Kouzes, coauthor, The Leadership Challenge and Encouraging the Heart; chairman, Tom Peters Group/Learning Systems

A Compassionate and Compelling Meditation on Discovering Your Path in Life.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Parker Palmer's writing is like a high country stream-clear, vital, honest. If your life seems to be passing you by, or you cannot see the way ahead, immerse yourself in the wisdom of these pages and allow it to carry you toward a more attentive relationship with your deeper, truer self." (John S. Mogabgab, editor, Weavings Journal)

"An exuberant and passionate book. I was deeply moved and I cannot, nor do I want to, shake off the haunting questions that it raises for me. This book penetrates the soul, and it will definitely stir you to explore more of your own inner territory. What an extraordinary achievement." (Jim Kouzes, coauthor, The Leadership Challenge and Encouraging the Heart; chairman, Tom Peters Group/Learning Systems)

"At a time when our culture is seeking a new language for expressing the spirit in everyday life, Parker Palmer is our leading voice of clarity and wisdom. In Let Your Life Speak, Palmer continues to deepen our ways of understanding the relationships between the inner life of spirit and the outer life of action." (Rob Lehman, president, The Fetzer Institute)

"In our search for authentic vocation, this book should be the starting point and deserves a prominent place in every home, school, and college. It is vintage Parker Palmer, providing his unique insight to the interconnectedness of selfhood and vocation with eloquence and personal experience." (Doug Orr, president, Warren Wilson College)

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A gifted academic who formerly combined a college teaching career with community organizing, Palmer took a year's sabbatical to live at the "intentional" Quaker community of Pendle Hill in Pennsylvania. Instead of leaving at year's end, he became the community's dean of studies and remained there for 10 years. Palmer (The Courage to Teach) shares the lessons of his vocational and spiritual journey, discussing his own burnout and intense depression with exceptional candor and clarity. In essays that previously appeared in spiritual or educational journals and have been reworked to fit into this slim volume, he suggests that individuals are most authentic when they follow their natural talents and limitations, as his own story demonstrates. Since hearing one's "calling" requires introspection and self-knowledge (as suggested by the eponymous Quaker expression), Palmer encourages inner work such as journal-writing, meditation and prayer. Recognizing that his philosophy is at odds with popular, essentially American attitudes about self-actualization and following one's dreams, Palmer calls vocation "a gift, not a goal." He deftly illustrates his point with examples from the lives of people he admires, such as Rosa Parks, Annie Dillard and Vaclav Havel. A quiet but memorable addition to the inspirational field, this book has the quality of a finely worked homily. The writing displays a gentle wisdom and economy of style that leaves the reader curious for more insight into the author's Quaker philosophy. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780787947354
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 9/28/1999
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 128
  • Sales rank: 29,245
  • Product dimensions: 5.28 (w) x 7.28 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

PARKER J. PALMER is senior associate of the American Association for Higher Education and senior advisor to the Fetzer Institute. In 1998, he was named one of the thirty most influential senior leaders in higher education. Author of such widely praised books as The Courage to Teach and To Know As We Are Known, he holds a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. He is a member of the Religious Society of FriAnds (Quaker) and lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt




Chapter One


Listening to Life


Some time when the river is ice ask me mistakes I have made. Ask me whether what I have done is my life. Others have come in their slow way into my thought, and some have tried to help or to hurt: ask me what difference their strongest love or hate has made.
I will listen to what you say. You and I can turn and look at the silent river and wait. We know the current is there, hidden; and there are comings and goings from miles away that hold the stillness exactly before us. What the river says, that is what I say. —William Stafford, "Ask Me"


"Ask me whether what I have done is my life." For some, those words will be nonsense, nothing more than a poet's loose way with language and logic. Of course what I have done is my life! To what am I supposed to compare it?

    But for others, and I am one, the poet's words will be precise, piercing, and disquieting. They remind me of moments when it is clear—if I have eyes to see—that the life I am living is not the same as the life that wants to live in me. In those moments I sometimes catch a glimpse of my true life, a life hidden like the river beneath the ice. And in the spirit of the poet, I wonder: What am I meant to do? Who am I meant to be?

    I was in my early thirties when I began, literally, to wake up to questions about my vocation. By all appearances, things were going well, but the soul does not put much stock in appearances. Seeking a path more purposeful than accumulatingwealth, holding power, winning at competition, or securing a career, I had started to understand that it is indeed possible to live a life other than one's own. Fearful that I was doing just that—but uncertain about the deeper, truer life I sensed hidden inside me, uncertain whether it was real or trustworthy or within reach—I would snap awake in the middle of the night and stare for long hours at the ceiling.

    Then I ran across the old Quaker saying, "Let your life speak." I found those words encouraging, and I thought I understood what they meant: "Let the highest truths and values guide you. Live up to those demanding standards in everything you do." Because I had heroes at the time who seemed to be doing exactly that, this exhortation had incarnate meaning for me—it meant living a life like that of Martin Luther King Jr. or Rosa Parks or Mahatma Gandhi or Dorothy Day, a life of high purpose.

    So I lined up the loftiest ideals I could find and set out to achieve them. The results were rarely admirable, often laughable, and sometimes grotesque. But always they were unreal, a distortion of my true self—as must be the case when one lives from the outside in, not the inside out. I had simply found a "noble" way to live a life that was not my own, a life spent imitating heroes instead of listening to my heart.

    Today, some thirty years later, "Let your life speak" means something else to me, a meaning faithful both to the ambiguity of those words and to the complexity of my own experience: "Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent."

    My youthful understanding of "Let your life speak" led me to conjure up the highest values I could imagine and then try to conform my life to them whether they were mine or not. If that sounds like what we are supposed to do with values, it is because that is what we are too often taught. There is a simplistic brand of moralism among us that wants to reduce the ethical life to making a list, checking it twice—against the index in some best-selling book of virtues, perhaps—and then trying very hard to be not naughty but nice.

    There may be moments in life when we are so unformed that we need to use values like an exoskeleton to keep us from collapsing. But something is very wrong if such moments recur often in adulthood. Trying to live someone else's life, or to live by an abstract norm, will invariably fail—and may even do great damage.

    Vocation, the way I was seeking it, becomes an act of will, a grim determination that one's life will go this way or that whether it wants to or not. If the self is sin-ridden and will bow to truth and goodness only under duress, that approach to vocation makes sense. But if the self seeks not pathology but wholeness, as I believe it does, then the willful pursuit of vocation is an act of violence toward ourselves—violence in the name of a vision that, however lofty, is forced on the self from without rather than grown from within. True self, when violated, will always resist us, sometimes at great cost, holding our lives in check until we honor its truth.

    Vocation does not come from willfulness. It comes from listening. I must listen to my life and try to understand what it is truly about—quite apart from what I would like it to be about—or my life will never represent anything real in the world, no matter how earnest my intentions.

    That insight is hidden in the word vocation itself, which is rooted in the Latin for "voice." Vocation does not mean a goal that I pursue. It means a calling that I hear. Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am. I must listen for the truths and values at the heart of my own identity, not the standards by which I must live—but the standards by which I cannot help but live if I am living my own life.

    Behind this understanding of vocation is a truth that the ego does not want to hear because it threatens the ego's turf: everyone has a life that is different from the "I" of daily consciousness, a life that is trying to live through the "I" who is its vessel. This is what the poet knows and what every wisdom tradition teaches: there is a great gulf between the way my ego wants to identify me, with its protective masks and self-serving fictions, and my true self.

    It takes time and hard experience to sense the difference between the two—to sense that running beneath the surface of the experience I call my life, there is a deeper and truer life waiting to be acknowledged. That fact alone makes "listen to your life" difficult counsel to follow. The difficulty is compounded by the fact that from our first days in school, we are taught to listen to everything and everyone but ourselves, to take all our clues about living from the people and powers around us.

    I sometimes lead retreats, and from time to time participants show me the notes they are taking as the retreat unfolds. The pattern is nearly universal: people take copious notes on what the retreat leader says, and they sometimes take notes on the words of certain wise people in the group, but rarely, if ever, do they take notes on what they themselves say. We listen for guidance everywhere except from within.

    I urge retreatants to turn their note-taking around, because the words we speak often contain counsel we are trying to give ourselves. We have a strange conceit in our culture that simply because we have said something, we understand what it means! But often we do not—especially when we speak from a deeper place than intellect or ego, speak the kind of words that arise when the inner teacher feels safe enough to tell its truth. At those moments, we need to listen to what our lives are saying and take notes on it, lest we forget our own truth or deny that we ever heard it.

    Verbalizing is not the only way our lives speak, of course. They speak through our actions and reactions, our intuitions and instincts, our feelings and bodily states of being, perhaps more profoundly than through our words. We are like plants, full of tropisms that draw us toward certain experiences and repel us from others. If we can learn to read our own responses to our own experience—a text we are writing unconsciously every day we spend on earth—we will receive the guidance we need to live more authentic lives.

    But if I am to let my life speak things I want to hear, things I would gladly tell others, I must also let it speak things I do not want to hear and would never tell anyone else! My life is not only about my strengths and virtues; it is also about my liabilities and my limits, my trespasses and my shadow. An inevitable though often ignored dimension of the quest for "wholeness" is that we must embrace what we dislike or find shameful about ourselves as well as what we are confident and proud of. That is why the poet says, "ask me mistakes I have made."

    In the chapters to come, I speak often of my own mistakes—of wrong turns I have taken, of misreadings of my own reality-for hidden in these moments are important clues to my own vocation. I do not feel despondent about my mistakes, any more than the poet does, though I grieve the pain they have sometimes caused others. Our lives are "experiments with truth" (to borrow the subtitle of Gandhi's autobiography), and in an experiment negative results are at least as important as successes. I have no idea how I would have learned the truth about myself and my calling without the mistakes I have made, though by that measure I should have written a much longer book!

    How we are to listen to our lives is a question worth exploring. In our culture, we tend to gather information in ways that do not work very well when the source is the human soul: the soul is not responsive to subpoenas or cross-examinations. At best it will stand in the dock only long enough to plead the Fifth Amendment. At worst it will jump bail and never be heard from again. The soul speaks its truth only under quiet, inviting, and trustworthy conditions.

    The soul is like a wild animal—tough, resilient, savvy, self-sufficient, and yet exceedingly shy. If we want to see a wild animal, the last thing we should do is to go crashing through the woods, shouting for the creature to come out. But if we are willing to walk quietly into the woods and sit silently for an hour or two at the base of a tree, the creature we are waiting for may well emerge, and out of the corner of an eye we will catch a glimpse of the precious wildness we seek.

    That is why the poem at the head of this chapter ends in silence—and why I find it a bit embarrassing that as this chapter ends, I am drawing the reader not toward silence but toward speech, page after page of speech! I hope that my speech is faithful to what I have heard, in the silence, from my soul. And I hope that the reader who sits with this book can hear the silence that always surrounds us in the writing and reading of words. It is a silence that forever invites us to fathom the meaning of our lives—and forever reminds us of depths of meaning that words will never touch.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Gratitudes vii

I. Listening to Life 1

II. Now I Become Myself 9

III. When Way Closes 37

IV. All the Way Down 56

V. Leading from Within 73

VI. There Is a Season 95

Notes 111

The Author 115

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 13 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(7)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(3)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2007

    powerful

    One of the most powerful books I have ever read. Highly recommended for anyone interested in vocation and living a full life.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2003

    Excellent

    Small but powerful

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2003

    The *best* book of its kind

    As a religious educator who often works with adults, I find that the biggest spiritual and personal crises these days often revolve around jobs and careers. People are asking: If I have a great job, why am I so burned out? -- and, What kind of work would be best for me? These are precisely the question Palmer addresses in his book. In my experience, all kinds of people have found this book helpful, from retired people to construction workers to business executives and professionals (I've read it twice myself). It's short, to-the-point, and easy to read. But most importantly, Palmer offers some real help to anyone who's trying to figure the whole job and career issue. I think every high school graduate should get a copy of this book. Yes, it's that good.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2003

    A question of vocation

    Floundering, I was. Seeking Holy Orders in the Episcopal Church and going through the necessary interviews and screenings associated with a long and hard process, this book pops up when I searched Barnes and Noble for titles containing "Vocation". The book had so many important insights for me, personally. I settled down with the courage of my convictions that this was the right path. By the way, I made it through the process and I'm now an Episcopal priest.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2009

    Disappointed

    A few interesting to mildly compelling points, but overall more of an autobiography than a help.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2014

    Palmer's book has become a classic for good reason. Though some

    Palmer's book has become a classic for good reason. Though some feel it is too autobiographical, the lessons he draws from his own journey and his skill in drawing meaning he elicits from his life yields one profound quote after another, and there lies the book's translatability for an engaged reader. It is quite easy to relate Palmer's insights generally, as he has a knack for finding what is universal in life situations.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 12, 2012

    Highly Overrated

    What a disappointment. I forced myself to read this book to its conclusion and I found it to be a man's struggle with his depression and bad choices in life. My expectations of the book, from reading other reviews and the book jacket, was that it would guide me along the road of finding my own personal vocation through reading another person's journey. At the book's conclusion I felt that it was such a waste of my time. I feel the book is being misrepresented as a vocation guide. It is more of an autobiography and not a well written one.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)