Dennis Rivers

 Books, Essays and Web Sites

k a r u n a   b o o k s

a library of e-books and essays on the life of compassion and creativity


Welcome to my personal document collection. All the books and essays I have written over the past thirty years are available here free of charge in PDF or web-page format. (Printed copies are available for purchase where marked.) All this work is in the Creative Commons, so you are welcome to incorporate into your own writing and teaching anything that you find helpful here.  

I welcome correspondence on all the themes explored in the work here.  You can reach my contact page by clicking


Book: The Seven Challenges Workbook: A Guide to Cooperative Communication Skills for Success at Home and at Work.  

This 100-page workbook helps people steer their talking and listening toward sustainable successes with family members and workmates, and focuses on the unilateral positive changes you can make at home and at work.
Editions in

Book: Los Siete Retos de la Comunicación  (The Seven Challenges Workbook in Spanish)  Un Manual Gratis para la Comunicación más Cooperativa,con lecturas y ejercicios



Companions in the Storm, Companions in Blessing
explores the role of twelve forms of spiritual friendship in
the healing of the world

Eco-Bodhisattva Prayers and Questions to Live By

Infinity Hidden in a Speck
Bio-spirituality celebrates the wonder of each person's
100 trillion cells

Joanna Macy and the Work That Reconnects
April 2010 - Los Angeles Whole Person Calendar

Communication Skills as Emergent Evolution
December 2009 - Los Angeles Whole Person Calendar

From Ashram to Activist
January 2010 - Los Angeles Whole Person Calendar

 July 2005 Issue  -- Journal of Cooperative Communication Skills
Hall of Mirrors
Reflections on War, Terror and Human Interaction



Book on Web: Prayer Evolving
    My spiritual autobiography and exploration of meditating and
    praying with vivid imagery.  One approach to the question
    of how to stay positive and compassionate in the middle
    of difficult and/or chaotic situations.  My effort to write a
    23rd Psalm for the 21st century.

Science Fiction Web Site: 345th Intergalactic Ambulance Wing

Turning Toward Life: An Invitation to Explore Reverence for Life as a Spiritual Path (5.5MB PDF file. Book of essays, two by DR).

Includes contributions by Vijali, Joanna Macy, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Prof. Eugene Bianchi, and many others.  The is a pre-publication draft of a manuscript I hope to publish through traditional publishing channels as well as making it available on the web for free.  Green spirituality belongs to everyone!

Essay: An Ecology of Devotion, (PDF file) first published in EarthLight Magazine, explores five dimensions of reverence of life as expressed in the following morning prayer:

    I give thanks for the life that lives within me
    breath and heartbeat, joy and sorrow, dance and stillness

    I give thanks for the life that lives between us
    as loving, understanding, creating, embracing and letting go

    I give thanks for all the life forms that surround and support us
    for the web of life that feeds and protects us and also needs our care

    I give thanks for all the life of the future
    hidden in the present moment and inviting us
    to walk the path of infinite compassion

    I give thanks for the source of all life, and the source of my life,
    this living universe, of which my life is an expression.



Poem for a friend with cancer (and for me, too):

The view from the Milky Way

Over the years I come back again and again
to a perspective I call
“the view from the Milky Way.”

I have been deeply influenced
by the emerging story
of how we all got here,
especially the way that
all the elements in our bodies
were fused together in the hearts of stars,
all the carbon and iron and oxygen.
Then those stars, pregnant with the elements
that would eventually become you and me,
blew up in titanic explosions,
spreading their rich harvest of elements
across space
to become the seeds of future stars and beings,
rivers and trees and toddlers on tricycles,
all part of the extraordinary breathing out
of some cosmic creativity and fertility
that I can barely comprehend.

From the point of view of the Milky Way
all these forms pass away
and all are renewed
again and again.

I always find it startling to shift perspectives
from wanting an infinite future
to having an infinite present.
What matters then is not how long I last
but how well I love
in each of these amazing moments.

When I meditate on the rivers of stars
that stream across the sky
I start to feel timeless
and part of something much larger than myself.

That is the message
that the night sky brings to me:
that we are part of something
much larger than ourselves
which holds our time-bound existence
in its hands.

The view from the Milky Way.

Dennis Rivers -- 2009


Manuscript in preparation (about 3/4 completed):  
A Change of Heart ~ An Interfaith Guide to Conscientious Objection
(2MB PDF file)

An Interfaith Workbook and Reader for a Year-Long Course Exploring the Process of Becoming a Conscientious Objector   to Participation in, and Support of, Organized Killing.  (Comments and suggestions welcome. You can reach my contact page by clicking here.)

Book: The Geometry of Dialogue:
A Visual Way of Understanding Interpersonal Communication and Human Development

Drawings and book (200 pages).  This page linked by the title above contains links to mandala-like flow charts in PDF format, and to my 210-page exploratory study.  This material was a major part of my graduate work toward an M.A. degree in interpersonal communication and human development, which I received in 1997 from the Vermont College Graduate Program.  The study is the theoretical foundation of the Seven Challenges Workbook, (complete with more footnotes than anyone would ever want to read).  It is my effort to work out the communication training implications of current thinking in the field of human development, using visual models as organizing tools.

Essay: What Kind of Person Am I Becoming?  What Kind of People
Are We Becoming Together?

    Reflections on interpersonal communication 
    and the journey of becoming a person. 

Essay: Reflections on the Struggle to Be Honest
    Honest conversations viewed as counseling 
    and counseling viewed as conversations that
    allow for honesty

Essay: The Love of Children May Hold the Salvation of the World
Reflections on Israel, Palestine and America

    This essay explores one possible value or principle that could make a stronger claim on people than revenge and nationalism.  I am especially concerned about this because personal and national revenge seem to make so much sense, yet lead their followers into a spiral of escalating injury from which there appears to be no exit.  I propose that focusing on the love of children could provide a face-saving way for all sides to back away from the brink of mutual destruction.  It would not be easy or automatic, but it would be worlds better than what is going on now.  

Essay:   Hope from Ashes: Why Remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki? (first appeared as the preface to Toby Lurie's 1998 book-length poem, Hiroshima, a Symphonic Elegy for Spoken Voices.

    [Excerpt] The aspect of World War II that I find most disturbing is that, as concerns the methods of war, I cannot resist the conclusion that Hitler won World War II. The war was portrayed at the time as a conflict over high principles. And in the end one of Hitler's most important principles prevailed: the mass murder of civilians in order to achieve military and/or political goals. Early in the war Hitler began gassing, incinerating or otherwise killing large numbers of civilians. By the end of the war American and British air forces were fully engaged in the mass murder of civilians through the fire-bombing of entire cities in Germany and Japan. That this fire-bombing campaign began partly as righteous revenge for Hitler's air raids against British cities only demonstrates how quickly the opposing participants in war can come to resemble one another. 

Essay collection: A Renunciation of Nuclear Weapons, One Citizen at a Time.  Documents in support of United States citizens' personal renunciation of nuclear weapons use on their behalf.

Compiled and edited by Dennis Rivers with the cooperation of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and the Peacemaker Community. Revised March 30, 2002


Essay: Cause and Effect: An American Reflects on 9/11
September 11, 2004 article in the Santa Barbara Independent newspaper

      [Excerpt] To sum up, the United States, for all its many virtues of dynamism and creativity, also happens to be a massive producer and exporter of both the culture and the instruments of violence.  It now seems to me that the Buddhist monk was right.  Every effect does have its cause.  It was only a matter of time, in a world made small by airplanes, before the violence we have exported would return to us.

Poem:   I found my father's little tape recorder today


Web Sites:

Web Site:
New Conversations (

      Cooperative communication skills in working, partnering & parenting

      Books, essays, teaching materials and The 7 Challenges Workbook.

      (DR, principal author and site designer)


Web Site:

      explores the pressing need to reaffirm and extend the Geneva Conventions, a series of treaties governing the conduct of war, the treatment of prisoners of war, and the protection of civilians and wounded soldiers.

      (DR, principal author and site designer)


Web Site: No Nukes (

      Online library of essays & articles exploring the dangers of, and alternatives to, nuclear power/weapons.

      (DR, guest author and site designer)


Web Site: Turn Toward Life (

      Explores reverence for life as a spiritual path.  Includes free library of essays and articles offering different visions of "deep ecology."

      (DR, guest author and site designer)


Web Site: Karuna Books (

      The site of which this page is a part. e-books and essays exploring the life of creativity and compassion.  

      (DR, guest author and site designer)


Web Site:
Liberation Theology Resources (

      Liberation theology in Latin America has inspired forms of liberation theology around the world, as well as liberation psychology and liberation ecology.  To be true to its incarnational theme, "Thy will be done on Earth, as it is in heaven," liberation theologies must vary from place to place, since the goal of liberation theology is to help people become spiritually present to, and fully engaged with, the moral and transformational challenges of their specific places and times.  So, as this site develops I hope to include many contemporary movements and individuals around the world who are embodying a spirituality of courageous compassion.    (DR, guest author and site designer)

Web Site: Human Development Books (

      This is a small publishing company I started which weaves together the roles of writer, editor, publisher, bookseller and open source librarian.  I take special interest in bringing back into print books that I believe are especially worthy of attention, books that for one reason or another have gone out of print with their original publishers.  Such is the case with the two books written by the German psychoanalyst
      Arno Gruen which have been translated into English:   The Insanity of Normality and The Betrayal of the Self.


Web Site: Mary Within Us (

      [In my work as a book designer and publisher I also create web pages that highlight individual books, such as this one about the Virgin Mary as an archetype of the Eternal Feminine.]


      In Mary Within Us, David Richo demonstrates how we have always venerated not the literal Mary but the feminine dimension of the divine that she represents and enriches. Using the titles in the Litany of Loreto with depth and reverence, this book opens a dialogue about Mary as a personification of the virtues and destiny of the human psyche, including the so far unexplored dark side.  (DR, book and site designer)

Web Site created with WordPress: ecology meditation-prayer-study-action community



Dennis Rivers is a writer/teacher/peace activist who lives in Northern California.  For many years he taught communication skills at the Santa Barbara Community Counseling Center, and now edits several large peace and ecology web sites (including,, and
  He received his MA in interpersonal communication and human development from the Vermont College Graduate Program, after studying sociology and religious studies at UC Santa Barbara, and theology at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.  His books include The Geometry of Dialogue, The Seven Challenges Workbook, Prayer Evolving, and, most recently, Turning Toward Life, an exploration of reverence for life as a spiritual path. 


k a r u n a   b o o k s

a library of e-books and essays on the life of compassion and creativity