When Parker Palmer was approaching his seventies, he turned to a group of trusted friends to help him understand “what it meant to grow older in this particular dimension of life.” The process birthed one of my favorite questions he asks… What do I want to let go of? And, what do I want to give myself to?
Despite articulating it in his seventies, Parker has devoted his life to it as an acclaimed author, teacher, and the Founder of the Center for Courage and Renewal. It’s why, after completing his PhD in 1969, he felt called to respond to racial injustice as a community organizer in Washington D.C. rather than pursue the secure academic path expected of him.
“It was a job that met the challenge of my soul and gave that soul a chance to grow,” he says. “People would often ask me: ‘Why are you doing this?’ I remember saying: ‘I can’t really explain it to you. I can barely explain it to myself, but I can tell you this: I can’t not do it.’
‘I can’t not do it’ became a mantra for me. I started to understand that this is what one calls the soul’s imperatives. This is a path that I’m walking because something in me understands that if I don’t walk it—if I don’t respond to some of the deepest yearnings of my soul—I’m going to lose my soul in the long run.
I think [the soul] has something to do with the ‘being’ in human being; And, that our very beings cry out for a way of being in the world, for a service to the world, for something that makes our lives more than just our own. It’s a voice I think we all need to be listening for.”
Our conversation is an exploration of how to connect more deeply with that voice. We delve into how to hear what Parker calls our “inner teacher” as well as the incredible practice he teaches for trusted friends to support each other in that process.