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Let Your Life Speak: Listening to the Voice Within by Parker Palmer

Where are you struggling to hold back advice, knowing you need to upgrade your curiosity to get more significant results? In @Jena Brune's review of Let Your Life Speak: Listening to the Voice Within by Parker Palmer,Jena shares Palmer's insights with building these competencies. She finds Palmer's vulnerable, funny, and honest account of his path to vocation relevant and relatable to coaches. Jena highlights Palmer's insights, what elements apply to coaching, and how to utilize the wisdom he sprinkles throughout his book. Enjoy!

Reviewer: Jena Brune (Completing studies in the Life Coach Practitioner Track)

Book: Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the voice of Vocation

Author: Parker J. Palmer

“The soul doesn’t put much stock in appearances”

Throughout the book, Palmer explores the importance of coming to know and understand our true nature. He suggests that being honest with yourself about these birthright qualities, looking at them without placing value or judgement, provides guidance to working in alignment with both our gifts as well as our limitations. He explains that the journey to embracing true nature is not an easy one. The illusion of “being good or doing good”; the notion of failure as the signature of lack of effort; and the discomfort of our shadowy times can cloud our vision and stifle our curiosity. True nature is there no matter how well or poorly we perform, and to ignore it can lead to both missed opportunity and deep pain for both ourselves and for others.

“We listen for guidance from everywhere else but within”

We must recognize and embrace the work that is ours to do and let go of what we may have internalized as what we could, or should, do. To do this, we must know and work with our true nature. On its face, this seems liberating, like if I just let go of everyone’s expectations it will all come together! Attempting to do that, or to even know what is whosestory, turns out to be easier said than done. Palmer encourages us to quiet ourselves and look back at our history with fresh and curious eyes. What can we learn from our childhood years? What ways of doing or being show up no matter what role or activity we are in? Who is drawn to us? Revisiting significant failures, decisions, and successes, what changes if we understand them through the lens of true nature having had an impact in how they played out and in how we behaved?

“…a lot of way has closed behind me, and that’s had the same guiding effect.”

A wise young person once said to me, “If you reject me, you redirect me.” This notion speaks perfectly to Palmer’s suggestion that much can be learned if we take the time to interrogate our experiences when opportunities are denied or when they simply don’t work, or feel, right…even when we desire to embrace them. He acknowledges that, at times, larger structures of discrimination or circumstance can be at play. Even within that possibility, Palmer encourages his readers to return to curiosity about self, values, and true nature to discern how to best make use of our rejection or discomfort. Palmer also points out that, sometimes, we need back up. Not in the form of advice, or comfort, but in powerful questions, from trusted people, that challenge us to do the work of seeing our true motivations, limits, and desires. In taking on this work, we increase our ability to align our next move from a place of clarity and integrity versus one of illusion or stubborn performance for the sake of ego or habit.

What does this have to do with coaching?

Palmers words encourage the path toward authentic selfhood and stewardship of our gifts. His stories illustrate the roles others can play on that journey with a particular eye toward those who can support and accompany without ideas or advice. These people center the person on the journey rather than themselves and offer their support through powerful questions, patient quiet, and active listening. These people make room for exploring your own story and ultimately expanding your own thinking. They make space for you to do your own work and this to me is a coach.

What resonates and how will I use it?

I opened this piece with my favorite quote illustrating a theme that threads through all of Palmer’s book. Accepting that we have true nature, a soul who is at play, helps us to understand how we are showing up in the world and the ripples and impacts of our choices (and illusions) on ourselves, our loved ones, and the world around us. Both personally, and as a coach, this concept offers a whole new tool for exploring and making meaning of our interactions with the world. What do I understand if I sort from the viewpoint of true nature? What new opportunities might I seek if I can recognize what suits me and what does not?

How will you apply the key message in this book within your coaching?

I am committed to continuing to build the skill and presence that invites my clients into their own work. I hope to be able to hold space that feels curious enough to explore new ways of understanding the world; challenging enough to find use in the paradox and limitations; engaging enough to support momentum; and safe enough for soul to share its way of knowing and guide my clients toward their vocation, their joy, and their authentic self.

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