Wheeling Through Space on Planet Earth

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.

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April 22nd, 2015

We all have one of those transcendent moments when we’re immersed in nature and experience the immensity of it all. On this Earth Day, Parker Palmer shares one of those times while camping in the Grand Canyon.

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April 15th, 2015

Violence is what happens when we don’t know what else to do with our suffering. But how do we turn the power of suffering toward new life? It depends on our willingness to exercise our hearts so that when suffering strikes, they are suppler and more able to break open to new life.

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April 8th, 2015

We all want to be of service, to be needed and of use to others and to ourselves. Parker Palmer tells the playful story of a neighbor who takes this to an extreme.

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April 1st, 2015

We are born baffled. Acknowledging this can be key to becoming a writer or a person who seeks to understand the world around you better. Parker Palmer muses on a writing life and distills his experience into three principles of living deeply and richly within this world.

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March 25th, 2015

How do we celebrate our diminishment as we age? We look for beauty in “that which the world rejects as ugly.”

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March 18th, 2015

Regret and humility are two ways we relate to the past, but they can spawn very different approaches to life. Embracing adversity can open up hope for the future depending on how we embrace it.

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March 11th, 2015

Inspired by a mother’s observation of her toddler’s awe of the world, Parker Palmer reflects on the mystery of the world and the grace of wholeness — delighting in the gift of life as a septuagenarian.

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March 4th, 2015

Parker Palmer shares one of his favorite stories about the Dalai Lama and a poem from Stephen Levine on the majesty of humor and love.

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February 25th, 2015

Aided by Hafiz, Parker Palmer reminds us that the inner life does not have to be a somber one, but a life rich with experience.

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February 18th, 2015

We are told to embrace the fact that death is part of life. Embracing emotional honesty, Parker Palmer shakes his salty fist at fate’s inevitable hand with a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay.

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February 11th, 2015

Cynicism beckons to us with ease at times. But how do we remain open to the good within and around us? A reminder to keep hope alive when the demon inside us bites down. And, lyrical lines from Mary Oliver!

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January 28th, 2015

No matter what decade of your life you’re in, your journey to find a fulfilling work life is one often clouded with worry and self-doubt. Parker Palmer writes this helpful story about finding the way — not by what opens in front of you but by what closes behind you.

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January 21st, 2015

The joys and sorrows of your life are sure to come and go. A commitment to learning at any age will sustain you and help you weather the peaks and troughs of life.

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January 14th, 2015

When we succumb to the distractions of this life and the will of others, we must hold onto something. But what? Some questions to turn over and explore to guide you.

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January 7th, 2015

There are few more influential writers than the Trappist monk Thomas Merton. His writings continue to inspire, mentor, and impact new generations of readers. Our columnist Parker Palmer remembers when he first met Merton’s words and how they continue to shape him today.

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December 31st, 2014

On this New Year’s Eve, our weekly columnist wrestles with the uncertainty of the year to come. Rather than making resolutions, he poses five questions to ask yourself to carry into the New Year.

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December 24th, 2014

The Buddhist concept of the “beginner’s mind” may offer a way to understand the simple meanings of the Christmas story — and “how can we love one another in ways that midwife their incarnation.”

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December 17th, 2014

In a world of fomenting darkness, a poem calls us to be beacons of light in the shadow for others to be guided by.

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December 14th, 2014

A tribute to the children and adults who died in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School honored with a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye. A list we must return to and remember out of love and hope for a safer world.

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December 10th, 2014

For the introverts in us, winter can be a time of reflection to assess and remember our own inner truths. Includes a poem by David Whyte.

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December 3rd, 2014

When we ask our deepest questions, the answers do not come immediately. And that, dear reader, is why we must choose them with care.

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November 26th, 2014

For Thanksgiving, Parker Palmer asks us to find new ways to be filled with gratitude and praise. It’s in the gratitude for the ground we stand on, the blessing of togetherness, and the kindness of strangers, that we remember our work is loving the world.

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November 19th, 2014

The scarcity assumption can be a self-fulfilling prophecy — and a killer of the spirit. With a poem from Wendell Berry and a few thoughts of his own.

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November 12th, 2014

Sometimes the framing question needs to be, well, questioned. A “clearness committee” helps our columnist find a way of asking a transformative question instead of a question of loss.

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November 5th, 2014

In the face of so much pain and suffering, some words of advice on how to persevere and the importance of being faithful to your gifts.

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October 29th, 2014

With the elections next week, a story of forgiveness and redemption from a civil rights legend.

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October 22nd, 2014

As we acknowledge the pain and suffering in the world, we must also look for the possibility within us as we aim to change what’s wrong.

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October 15th, 2014

More than 50 years ago, Thomas Merton warned that the pressure of modern life might distract us from the wisdom that makes work fruitful.

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October 8th, 2014

The poet W.S. Merwin calls us to our mystical connections with the people in front and behind us.

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October 1st, 2014

With the political season in full swing, a reminder that the great prophets were courageous, outrageous people who railed against the powers-that-be. And a poem by Mary Oliver.

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September 24th, 2014

Autumn reminds our Quaker columnist about the beauty of the Earth and the death that is to come. Through the words of Rilke, an exploration of the wellspring of gratitude.

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September 17th, 2014

Anger is something many of us try to deny. Rather than quelling it, what if we were to use it as an animating force for personal transformation and social change?

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September 10th, 2014

Inspired by the simplicity and power of Naomi Shihab Nye’s story, here’s a list of five simple things we can do to help with healing the heart of democracy.

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September 3rd, 2014

How does one have a more supple heart that’s read to hold life’s suffering and joy? Finding a way in through a Mary Oliver poem and some guiding words.

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August 27th, 2014

As school begins for many students across the U.S., a reminder to praise our teachers and offer “soft eyes” of compassion to our children.

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August 19th, 2014

Whether you’re inwardly or outwardly lost, there’s an alternative to panicking. Advice on how to find where you are with a David Wagoner poem.

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August 13th, 2014

Thoughtful words on standing in solidarity with others suffering from depression and the healing experience of a poem.

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August 6th, 2014

Some good humor on forgetfulness and poignant verse from the poet Billy Collins to sweeten the swallow.

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July 30th, 2014

Parker Palmer pays homage to Krista Tippett with some words of wisdom on “the savage and beautiful country that lies in between.”

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July 23rd, 2014

At our darkest hours, when light fails to find a home, a path of buttercups may lead us back. Parker Palmer offers up thoughts and a Willow Harth poem for many of us caught “underground.”

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July 16th, 2014

Parker Palmer reflects on “sharing our loves and doubts” as way into more generous conversations — all through the lens of a poem by Yehuda Amichai.

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July 9th, 2014

Parker Palmer celebrates the act of finding clarity in one’s life through the poetry of Mary Oliver and listening to the trees.

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July 2nd, 2014

As many of us Americans approach the July 4th weekend, Parker Palmer proposes an Interdependence Day to remind us that “we’re all in this together.”

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June 25th, 2014

Parker Palmer draws on the words of two poets to remind us that we must embrace receptivity and gratitude to live a full life.

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June 18th, 2014

A video with Parker Palmer discussing Lincoln’s depression and how he sees the 16th U.S. President’s ability to reconcile the darkness and lightness within himself as a lesson for us all in healing the heart of democracy.

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June 11th, 2014

Some thoughts on Leonard Cohen, our small and imperfect contributions to solving big problems, the “potluck supper approach to social change,” and how the light gets in.

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June 4th, 2014

To be human is to live with paradox and hold it in our hands. Parker Palmer offers some grounding advice on creating more spaces to do so gracefully — and a poem by May Sarton.

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May 28th, 2014

Life has its moments of melancholy. Parker Palmer reminds us to stop, take it all in, and write some poetry to recall life’s aspirations.

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May 21st, 2014

As you read this poem, Parker Palmer asks us to ponder a simple question: “How, then, shall I live?”

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May 14th, 2014

Parker Palmer draws inspiration from the words of Wendell Berry on celebrating one’s obstacles and the impeded stream that sings.

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