The Spiral Journey Empowerment & Resilience Maps

By Dennis Rivers and the Spiral Journey Working Group

The twenty-four-part Spiral Journey Empowerment & Resilience Map is one possible integrative vision of the skills and strengths we need to take up the great work of nurturing and defending the Web of Life.  Becoming a more compassionate, nurturing and creative person is the work of a lifetime. Building a green and compassionate civilization will be the work of centuries. Learning from the way that “fractal” patterns unfold in nature can help us see that similar processes unfold in a person, a family, a working group, a country and a civilization.  (Perhaps a galaxy, too, but I have to confess that the galactic level is a little beyond my reach.) Spiral Journey is an evolving work-in-progress of communication skills trainer Dennis Rivers and a circle of colleagues, in an effort to weave together the transformative work of many guiding lights, including Mahatma Gandhi, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,  eco-philosopher Joanna Macy and physicist/ecological activist Vandana Shiva. The order and number of the steps in the Spiral Journey are suggested rather than prescribed. You are most welcome to rearrange them into the pattern that most inspires and assists you to become the best possible you, and to express more radiantly your love for the Web of Life and all your brothers and sisters. For an expanded version of the central oval in the Spiral Journey diagram, we invite you to explore our newest graphic, Seven Mandalas Exploring Reverence for Life.   (For more explorations of reverence for life as a spiritual path, please visit our sister site: Companions in Blessing.) We invite you to participate in the Spiral Journey extended community by forming your own teams-of-two study and practice partnerships and independent study groups. You are also invited to recommend new resources for each of the many Spiral Journey resource libraries. The core materials of the Spiral Journey approach are available free of charge in PDF format, and may be reproduced without royalties, under a Creative Commons license. We invite colleges and universities around the world to adopt the Spiral Journey Empowerment & Resilience Map as the fractal outline for a B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Transformational or Ecological Leadership.

2022 Edition — Work in progress — Click image below for PDF portfolio

2019 Edition — Click image below for PDF file.

2016 Edition — Click image below for  11×17 PDF file.

Click on image for 11x17 PDF. 2016 Edition A vision of personal and social transformation, inspired by the lives and teachings of Joanna Macy, Mahatma Gandhi and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 24 Challenges/Conversations/Emerging Strengths
in the Spiral Journey — expressed in the form of self-inquiries.
(There could be others.  What would you add to this list?)

Challenge / Conversation / Strength 1.: LIVING MORE GRATEFULLY

How can I deepen my understanding and practice of gratitude, for body, heart, mind, people & Web of Life, as my core attitude in living? Challenge /Conversation / Strength 2.: EXPANDING MY EMPATHY

How can I open and listen more deeply, to feel life and the world as experienced by other people and other cultures, races, classes, creatures, eco-systems? Challenge / Conversation / Strength 3.: TRUTH-FACING AND TRUTH-TELLING

How can I/we find compassionate and emotionally sustainable ways of facing the truth, telling the truth, living with the truth, and living for the truth? How will I/we confront the lies of our time, and the elements of self-deception, oppression and destruction in ourselves and in our own culture? Challenge / Conversation / Strength 4.: EXPANDING EMOTIONAL ALIVENESS (ACCEPTING ALL FEELINGS — OVERCOMING NUMBNESS)

How can I/we learn to acknowledge, experience, accept and express all of my/our emotions? One will not go very far on the road of becoming-a-person / mending-the-world without encountering joy and sorrow, anger and fear, grief and guilt, and other strong feelings. Rather than becoming overwhelmed and/or withdrawing into numbness, we can learn gentle ways to understand, express and live more gracefully with our feelings, and learn ways to be comforting listeners to both ourselves and others. The attitudes of patience, truthfulness and compassion that we strive to embody in relation to other people, can work wonders when we apply them to our own hearts. Paradoxically, when we try to avoid our own troublesome or embarassing feelings, those very feelings we wanted to avoid can become our constant and unwelcome companions. (Holding back is holding on, but expressing feelings does not have to include attacking other people. See training material at Challenge /Conversation / Strength 5.: ACCEPTING RESPONSIBILITY

How can I/we learn to acknowledge, and make amends for, any and all mistakes I/we have made, and for any and all harm and pain I/we may have caused? (Comment: Acknowledging mistakes frees us to learn from them, and frees us from the traps of needing to defend, deny, and/or endlessly repeat them.)

Challenge / Conversation / Strength 6.: DEEPENING FORGIVENESS

How can I/we deepen my/our understanding of, and practice of, forgiveness? (Comment: …of self and other, for all that has been suffered, all that has been done, and all that has been witnessed, in order to free my/our life energies from the past and allow for new beginnings)


How can I/we learn to accept and honor my/our pain for the suffering of the world as a deep expression of my/our love for the world, rather than as a mistake or a problem to be gotten rid of? (Comment: This rediscovered love can empower us to become heroic protectors of Life.)

Challenge / Conversation / Strength 8.: PRACTICING ACTIVE SERENITY

How can I learn serenity practices that will increase my ability to hold the many crises of the world in my heart surrounded with clarity and compassion?

The crises caused by global warming, suicidal industrialism, and the culture of perpetual warmaking present us with a paradoxical pair of emotional challenges: On the one hand, to be stirred up intensely enough by the suffering of all our Web of Life sisters and brothers that we want to take action to change the entire world. And on the other hand, to be calm enough to be able to observe carefully, think clearly, focus our efforts, and nurture our co-workers. The more we understand about the world situation, the more intense this paradoxical set of challenges will become, hence the need to explore serenity practices as part of our spiritual/political/emotional survival kit. (meditation, music, yoga, time in nature, prayer, gardening, Tai Chi, gratitude, forgiveness, and more)

Challenge / Conversation / Strength 9.: TURNING AWAY FROM DESTRUCTIVE SYSTEMS

How can I/we find the courage/wisdom/compassion to turn away from, and stop cooperating with, the current economic, political, energy, weapons and war systems that are oppressing people around the world and endangering the Web of Life?

Challenge / Conversation / Strength 10.: TURNING AWAY FROM DESTRUCTIVE THINKING

How can I/we find the courage/wisdom/compassion to let go of the current idea systems/paradigms/life stories that are creating the present breakdowns? (the dominant “I – It” culture of hyper-individualism, separateness, mindless greed, endless growth, and indifference to suffering caused)

Challenge /Conversation / Strength 11.: EMBRACING THE WISDOM OF CONNECTEDNESS

…as a new life story. How can I/we deepen my/our understanding of  interwovenness, co-arising, and the life-sustaining wisdom of living systems and traditional cultures? (Examples: Native American “All My Relations,” Permaculture, Buddhist “Brahmaviharas,” Ecology, Albert Schwietzer’s “Reverence for Life”, Systems Theory [including fractals and complexity])

Challenge /Conversation / Strength 12.: COMMITTING TO PERSONALLY LIVE THE ANSWERS

Starting with the practices of AWARENESS, EMPATHY, KINDNESS and COMPASSION, how can I/we find/invent ways to “be more of the changes we want to see,” to practice, embody and initiate more of the changes/virtues we hope for in the world? (a “mirror-neuron” invitation)

Challenge /Conversation / Strength 13.: EXPLORING DEEP TIME and INFINITE RELATEDNESS

How can I/we learn to see with new eyes and feel with a new heart, our lives connected to and empowered by infinite ancestors (the history of all life), infinite present kin (the Web of Life), and infinite descendants (the future of all life)?

Challenge /Conversation / Strength 14.: SAYING YES/LIVING YES!

to being more completely awake and alive, to a new sense of self-in-nature, to the experience of beauty as an empowering mystery, to the evolution of love, to healing the world one step at a time, to the power of imagination that allows us to imagine a new society


How can I/we shift from blaming others to accepting ongoing responsibility for everything in which we have participated, and for everything from which we have benefited? (Comment: In doing this, we become empowered to mend the entire world. However accurate our assessments of blame might be, they focus our attention on the past rather than the future, and on other people’s mistakes rather than our own strengths, tending to leave us, therefore, perfectly correct but also mostly immobilized.  The more we understand ourselves to be ongoing co-participants in this wounded world, the more power we have to address this wounded world as ours to co-love, ours to co-heal and ours to co-renew.)

Challenge /Conversation / Strength 16.: OPENING TO THE POWER OF PERSONAL CALLINGS

How can I learn to better  encourage each  person (and myself) to follow their deepest calling/talent, and to work on the issue that brings our their deepest love?

Explorations and suggestions:
    • Faced with all the contending appeals for help in the world, I suggest that you commit yourself to the issue that most inspires you to love more deeply and to live more fully.
    • A person who follows their deepest calling with love is much more likely to awaken the love and sense of calling in others, thus increasing the total amount of love energy moving in and through the world.
    • Only the causes that move us to love, will move us to master the details and disciplines of our area of concern. Thus, the more we are moved to love, the better advocates we will be.
    • The Shamanism of Lovingkindness: What we care about deeply fills us with its power and cares/acts through us to mend the world.
    • Do that which best stirs you to love. –St. Theresa of Avila Love, and do what thou wilt…  –St. Augustine of Hippo

How can I/we learn to build more effective and sustainable communities of conscience, concern and action?  (Comments: Reaching out to others who are have similar concerns, working together to improve knowledge of  issue, plus communication, advocacy, conflict resolution skills.  The Spiral Journey Flow Chart both raises the question of how to form communities, and tries to give one possible answer to it.  )


How can I/we translate love, hope and vision into a creative plan for specific actions?

(Comments: Dreaming together.  Developing knowledge of  an issue area and a vision of service.  Whom are we hoping to serve and how do we hope to serve them?  Breakthrough stories and biographies of people like Gandhi, MLK and Archbishop Romero help us to think outside the box of conventional advocacy. The Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement show that people are capable of looking at their lives and societies from new angles.  The social science disciplines of “appreciative inquiry” and “positive deviance” focus on finding the positive exceptions (anomalies) that could become the new accepted way of doing things (paradigms). Challenge /Conversation / Strength 19.:  ACTING TRANSFORMATIVELY

How could I/we learn to transform fear into love, and passive helplessness or hostility into activating hope?

(Possibilities: by acting with awareness and compassion for everyone in a conflict situation, the torture victim and the torturer, for example.  Assuming that you have more to learn from and about your apparent opponents.  Listening empathically.  By example of your own energetic aliveness, working to unfreeze, un-stick, the life energy in all participants and all observers of a given problem or conflict. Art. Music. Theater. Letting go of continuity assumptions (fixed nature) about all of our apparent opponents.  Assuming that people can change.  Inviting all apparent opponents to give up the conflict and work on a solution.) Challenge /Conversation / Strength 20.:  PARTICIPATING MORE NUTURINGLY

How could I/we learn to better nurture and support our teammates and campaign companions ? (developing support groups – expanding peer mentoring – practicing appreciation and “home room” [very small support and accountability groups], Teams-of-Two, frequent feedback)

Challenge /Conversation / Strength 21.:  SUSTAINING EMOTIONAL ENGAGEMENT

How could I/we learn the skills and make safe spaces and times for sharing the experiences, frustrations and emotions that arise when struggling to mend the world? (Possibilities: transformative group exercises, The Work That Reconnects, empathic listening, “check-in’s”)

Challenge /Conversation / Strength 22.:  WHAT/HOW ARE WE LEARNING?

Learning something from every outcome. How could I/we make a safe space/ time to evaluate the results of our efforts? Learning from all experiences. Failing upwards. Embracing anomalies, curiosity, trial and error. Revising plans, concepts and stories. – inventory of new skills needed and plans to learn them.

Challenge /Conversation / Strength 23.: CELEBRATING = VITALITY + BODY + MEANING + EXPRESSION

How I/we invent/adopt ways of celebrating all our efforts? – of all team members and kindred spirits, as ways of being faithful to the web of life, to all our ancestors, andamp; to all the living beings of the future. Singing together, dancing, film-making, journaling.

Challenge /Conversation / Strength 24.:  MEDITATING/RESTING/DREAMING/RENEWING

How could I/we make more time for resting, meditating, praying, playing, dreaming? (opening up, letting go… ceasing all deliberate action in order to allow the larger energies of life to renew and rearrange me.)