Seeking Sanctuary in Our Own Sacred Spaces

Parker J. Palmer

is a columnist for On Being. His column appears every Wednesday.

He is a Quaker elder, educator, activist, and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal. His books include Healing the Heart of Democracy, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life, and Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation.

BY
September 14th, 2016

The violence of our culture can trap us in a spiral of fear and paralysis. Parker Palmer on the importance of centering our minds and hearts in sacred spaces of our own, wherever we may find them.

BY
September 7th, 2016

Weary of political correctness, but wary of its opposite, Parker Palmer offers up some practical wisdom on owning our shadow selves with grace and asking the same of our leaders.

BY
August 17th, 2016

Parker Palmer shares the poetry of a president: a testament to the healing power of words, and embracing the shadow and light within.

BY
August 10th, 2016

Is a life made, or grown? A contemplation from Parker Palmer and Marge Piercy on the quiet, joyful work of tending to ourselves as wild, flourishing thickets of life.

BY
August 3rd, 2016

An invocation for gratitude — for the open spaces around us, for the quiet resilience of nature, and for the power of vulnerability to open us to new possibilities.

BY
July 27th, 2016

Parker Palmer offers up a remedy for feeling adrift: embracing surprise, and taking on sense of reverence to mystery.

BY
July 20th, 2016

Can we be more generous in understanding those who are different from us? Parker Palmer recounts lessons learned over a lifetime on our true proximity and kinship with “the other.”

BY
July 13th, 2016

When the weight of the world is heavy, music can be a balm. A musical offering for this uncertain moment, for mercy and the courage to walk together toward the beloved community.

BY
July 6th, 2016

Learning from our mistakes doesn’t mean we have to obsess over our failures. Parker Palmer and Mary Oliver on the space nature provides for catharsis, so that we can move on to self-forgiveness.

BY
June 29th, 2016

The enduring beauty of nature can be a comfort, but sometimes our pain needs a more empathetic salve. Parker Palmer turns to the unique, healing power of language in times of darkness and hardship.

BY
June 22nd, 2016

It’s easy to blame Donald Trump for the fear and anger in this election cycle; it’s much harder to see the deep roots of prejudice in ourselves and in our culture. Parker Palmer seeks a political reckoning beyond the language “us” and “them,” toward a language of shared responsibility.

BY
June 15th, 2016

Loss and trauma can cast us into uncertainty. Parker Palmer finds solace in the words of William Stafford, and wonders if being lost is the first step on a path to something better.

BY
June 8th, 2016

Guided by Naomi Shihab Nye’s beloved poem “Kindness,” Parker Palmer reflects on our capacity to emerge from the depth of suffering, into the fullness of compassion.

BY
June 1st, 2016

Involvement is exhilarating, but saying yes to everything can be unhealthy in its own way. Guided by a poem by William Stafford, Parker Palmer points to the value of knowing when to engage, and when to let go.

BY
May 25th, 2016

Walk straight into your not-knowing. Exercise your heart. Live as variously as possible. In this season of graduations, Parker Palmer offers six suggestions for traversing the savage and beautiful terrain of life.

BY
May 18th, 2016

Trying to answer the existential question of worth is inevitable, but flawed. With words from Czeslaw Milosz as his guide, Parker Palmer on the question we need not answer and the ultimate definition of love.

BY
May 11th, 2016

Parker Palmer examines the guiding principles of care and healing at the center of a physician’s practice, and wonders how they might revive the heart of political life.

BY
May 4th, 2016

Facing fear is easier said than done. Parker Palmer on having an empathetic imagination for the inner battles we’re all fighting, especially those we can’t see.

BY
April 27th, 2016

A helpful word can be a salve, but it’s not always what we need. Parker Palmer on the power of quiet, unobtrusive presence to heal in troubled times.

BY
April 25th, 2016

As I’ve said before, the late poet Jeanne Lohmann is one of my favorite poets — and “Praise What Comes”…

BY
April 20th, 2016

Being part of the human race means embracing the fullness of people’s behaviors. Parker Palmer on the demanding path toward wholeness with Rumi, Merton, and other mystics as his escorts.

BY
April 13th, 2016

Wisdom isn’t exclusive to folks with more years under their belts. Parker Palmer invites older generations to celebrate the gifts of the young — energy, vision, and hope — and recognize the valuable knowledge contained within in every age.

BY
April 6th, 2016

A story of travel gone bad and the catalyst for generosity, sharing, and making good on circumstances beyond one’s control.

BY
March 29th, 2016

The beauty of spring is as much in its muddiness as in its blooms. An encouragement to revel in the dance of mess and lavishness in this most colorful season.

BY
March 23rd, 2016

What we need is within us and between us. With Wendell Berry at his side, Parker Palmer on the amazing abundance of self and community, and identifying what each of us has to offer.

BY
March 16th, 2016

The best education is one in which we listen to each other. Parker Palmer tells the story of a New York City cab driver and how he exhibits the many qualities necessary to be a good citizen today.

BY
March 9th, 2016

The greatest threat to American democracy doesn’t come from outside but from within. Parker Palmer serves up three traits to look for in a fascist leader — and words and a poem from Abraham Lincoln and W.H. Auden.

BY
March 2nd, 2016

An encouragement from our house sage to see what others don’t and not be afraid to show others that vision.

BY
February 24th, 2016

To love life in its fullness is the key to wise living. Parker Palmer with a poem on transforming suffering and restoring life.

BY
February 17th, 2016

A brief meditation on the curious concept of the Möbius strip and how it relates to life itself.

BY
February 10th, 2016

Life, like verse, contains beauty, grit, and uncomfortable truth. Inspired by a couplet from Thoreau, our columnist reflects on the journey of life as an artistic, creative craft, in the vein of lyrical composition.

BY
February 3rd, 2016

We’re trained to demonize and combat those who disagree with us. But what if we cultivated better habits that didn’t unravel the fabric of our civic community?

BY
January 27th, 2016

What are the last things you want to cherish? The last things you want to give up? Parker Palmer on treasuring those things that anchor one to the blessings of life.

BY
January 20th, 2016

On a retreat at a cabin in the northern woods of Wisconsin, Parker Palmer strings together pearls of contemplation on silence and solitude. With the help of Merton and Rumi, he finds the catharsis of being forced to reckon with one’s angels and demons.

BY
January 13th, 2016

It’s when we sit with our silence that the world opens before us, in ways large and small. Parker Palmer reflects on Gunilla Norris’ poetic words and the regrounding silence brings.

BY
January 6th, 2016

Each year brings the loss of a life we loved. But what if our grief served as a conduit to community and creating a more thoughtful, interconnected world?

BY
December 30th, 2015

A serendipitous typo inspires our columnist Parker Palmer to come up with a list of five “revolutions” for the New Year, resolutions to counteract grim realities in order to regain our humanity in 2016.

BY
December 23rd, 2015

Remembering a passage from the Christmas services of his childhood, Parker Palmer finds counsel for living an honest and genuine life. We must, he says, allow the good words we speak to become incarnate in our actions.

BY
December 16th, 2015

Through the story of the famous Christmas Truce of 1914, a ballad and some thoughts on holding despair and human possibility.

BY
December 9th, 2015

The feeling of being stuck is one we all have experienced at one time or another. Beleaguered by writer’s block, Parker Palmer calls upon his beginner’s mind and encourages us to move forward with hope.

BY
December 2nd, 2015

Nearly 30,000 delegates from 200 nations are in Paris talking about climate change this week. Parker Palmer encourages us to open our eyes to the beauty with a poem and a challenge.

BY
November 25th, 2015

American democracy is illumined by multiple voices calling us to pursue questions of personal, communal, and political meaning. A Quaker reminds us to vigorously question those who say the U.S. is a Christian nation.

BY
November 22nd, 2015

Parker Palmer pens an elegy to mark the anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination — a balm for a hurting world.

BY
November 18th, 2015

In the wake of the Paris attacks, Parker Palmer highlights the importance of “wounded healers” and what we can do to let heartbreak open ourselves to suffering and the kindness necessary for social change.

BY
November 11th, 2015

There are those people who know how to get ahead of the train wreck and those folks who are called to their senses after the collision has happened. But, catastrophe, too, can be a contemplative path if you choose to accept it.

BY
November 4th, 2015

What makes each child unique cannot be measured or scored. A nourishing story from a school principal on the “many ways of being smart” and testing children.

BY
October 28th, 2015

In response to Courtney Martin’s letter, Parker Palmer corresponds with his dear friend about the uncertainty of life. A contemplation on the value of being vulnerable and open to supportive friends.

BY
October 21st, 2015

Has technology failed to deliver on its promise: to lighten our load? A wry meditation on play, gratitude, and the gift of life.

BY
October 14th, 2015

With the visual glories of autumn, the living is hidden within the dying. A pondering about this season of paradox and the “the endless interplay of living and dying” we all must embrace.

BY
October 7th, 2015

The metaphors we use matter. Parker Palmer claims the metaphor of seasons to gently remind us that we’re not in charge, that we’re not alone, that it’s possible to transform and be transformed in this world.