Sage (Stacy) Lewis – author, healer, shamanic practitioner, animal communicator and life coach – is a down-to-earth St. Paul resident whose life experiences have convinced her that each one of us makes a difference, including those with four legs, scales or feathers.
Following a near-death experience in 2000 that resulted from a car accident, Lewis reassessed her personal priorities. She quit drinking alcohol. She put aside her career as an art teacher in the Madison, Wisc., area and turned to holistic healing. She identified her life’s passion to teach awareness.
"Spiritually," she said, "it was a huge wake-up call."
A "creature teacher" who does business as Dancing Porcupine, Lewis is one of only a half dozen people in the world who are third-level practitioners of a healing modality – Tellington TTouch® – that uses touch and movement to help animals and people relax enough to make calm decisions during stressful situations. Her Plott Hound, Java, only 12 weeks old when she was rescued by Lewis from an animal shelter, has made remarkable progress during the past seven years in rebounding from early life trauma as a result of Lewis’ commitment to this form of healing. And in the process, Lewis discovered that Java was helping her to heal.
Lewis transformed herself into a dynamic public speaker who has appeared on ESPN2, KFAI radio, AnimalWise Radio and Fox News. She wrote the book Java: The True Story of a Shelter Dog Who Rescued a Woman, and she now guides and supports the excellence in all creatures. She will be a featured speaker at Edge Life Expo on Sunday afternoon, November 9, at Minneapolis Convention Center.
She spoke with Edge Life while sipping herbal tea in her backyard, with Java lying peacefully nearby on a blanket spread on the patio.
What role did animals play in your childhood?
Sage Lewis: I’ve always had animals. When I was really little, we had dogs. Then I lived on a farm for a little while and my dad decided it would be really fun to get some chickens and some horses – and then he came home with a goat one day. My mom made him take it back. We had cats. So, I grew up always surrounded by animals. I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t have a pet.
Sometimes crises lead us to the realm of healing. Was that the case for you?
SL: A catalyst for the start of my little road here was a car accident in 2000, a near-death experience, and out-of-body experience. I wasn’t seriously hurt physically, but emotionally, yeah.
I was going 32 miles an hour, and you wouldn’t think that would be a catalyst for a near-death experience, but it was a head-on collision with somebody who was coming through the intersection. Right after impact, I was floating up above the left side of my body, and at that time I didn’t even know what a near-death experience was. I thought I died. I was like, "Well, this sucks." I remember the moment right before impact looking right into this woman’s eyes and just thinking, "Oh my God, I’m going to die. This sucks!" And I had that rolodex view of my life. It went by so fast that I didn’t recognize anything in the pictures. It was just like, "Brrrrpft…There’s your life!"
And then the impact happened and I was up above, like I was two feet up above my left shoulder looking down at my body and looking at the passenger seat. And then I remember just touching my body like, "Wow, I think I’m still here." It was like there was this moment when I was outside of my body and then I came back into my body. It was May 6, 2000.
Once I realized that I was alive, I jumped out of the car, because I was coughing and I thought the car was on fire, but it was the airbag. A lot of toxic stuff comes out of an airbag when it goes off. So I got out of the car and was completely stunned and shocked. Physically I was okay. I had some just aches and pains and abdominal stuff going on for about four or five months. Every day something new would happen – I’d have chest pains or my knees would hurt really badly. My doctor said that with a high-impact accident, you die or you break something or you sever something, but with low-impact collisions, all your organs can end up in a different spot.
It was a huge spiritual wake-up call, like, "Wow! I’ve been given another chance. How do I want to use it?" That led me into shamanism and Tellington TTouch®.
What led you to Tellington TTouch®?
SL: Tellington TTouch® actually found me. It was one of those situations where books were falling off the bookshelf, people were showing up with Tellington TTouch® books, there were fliers showing up at my door about TTouch. And Java showed up. There were all these signs, and I wasn’t paying attention.
I was considering a career change. I was about seven years into teaching, and I knew I wasn’t going to teach in the public schools forever. So I thought, "What else can I do where I can use my heart and my hands together?" I thought about going into pet massage and literally walked into a pet expo one day, walked up to the guy that I had talked to about pet massage, and then in an instant I understood, "This doesn’t feel right." I turned around and there was the TTouch booth right behind me. I had no idea what it was other than it was a gentle way of working with animals.
I signed up to receive their information. They were promoting a training session in Chicago in a year and a half and I thought, "I can’t wait a year and a half, I’ve got a reactive dog now." So I found a training in Minneapolis five weeks later, in 2002.
How did you start doing animal communication?
SL: Through Tellington TTouch® the animal communication just happened. I mean, I thought I was crazy. I was walking through an animal shelter one day and I heard a Beagle scream, "Help!" I thought I was crazy and called my sister and I said, "What’s up? I think I’m nuts." And she said, "No, you’re just way too open."
So, Tellington TTouch® was the catalyst for me grounding myself enough, becoming more aware, being open to receiving from the animals.
Why did you choose to become a practitioner of TTouch?
SL: There was an instant on the fourth day of my five-day training. I had planned on just fixing my dog in five days, but I started to see her potential. I started to realize how much a part of her growth had to do with my own growth.
On the fourth day, we were told to go off into a corner of the training room and just spend 15 minutes working with our animals doing some very simple circular touches on the dog’s body. I walked over to the area and I sat down with Java, I looked her in the eyes and I just started crying. I apologized for swatting her, for yelling at her, for yanking her leash, for doing everything that I had been shown to do, the hard way of working with animals. I just apologized. It was the first time that I ever realized how much I had misunderstood her. And she looked back at me and she just started licking the tears off my eyes
I thought, "This is what I need to do." It was literally a 15-second moment I had with her and I realized how misunderstood creatures are, whether they’re humans, whether they’re animals. I realized there was another way of being with animals and another way of being in the world. I had no idea I was going to get so much benefit out of Tellington TTouch®.
You mentioned seeing Java’s potential? What do you mean by that?
SL: When Java was with a handler who knew what she was doing, when Java was in situations with the right type of equipment like a harness or a head collar that could help her balance her body – mentally, physically and emotionally – she was making great choices. When she was with me on a flat collar, she was lunging and barking, because I was nervous. The whole idea behind Tellington TTouch® is that if you’re physically out of balance, you’re going to be emotionally out of balance. If you’re emotionally out of balance, you’re going to be physically and mentally out of balance. They all go together.
Six years ago I decided to become a practitioner, and I just got promoted to a Practitioner 3. I just got my certificate in the mail two days ago.
How has Java changed your life during the past seven years?
SL: Oh my gosh! She’s an amazing creature. She was a full-time job for five years. I had easy dogs for such a long time, but she is just a full-time job. Somebody would come over and she would just be running for an hour, jumping six feet in the air. I’ve learned so much about animal training. It took her five and a half years to lay down outside. And the greeting that you got when you came in the door, just a few barks, was a ton of work – me working with her to get to a point where she felt comfortable with somebody new coming in, and I felt comfortable.
The greatest gift that she’s taught me is understanding and respect for other beings. She’s an animal who really demands respect. Before I had Java in my life, I used to approach dogs like most people do, touching their head right away, looking right in their eyes, approaching leaning over. She’s a dog that can’t handle that. What I’ve really learned is a gentler way of being, a more respectful way of being, a greater understanding for animals.
Java goes after what she wants in life, and I love that about her. It used to bother me. She has a really high prey drive, and I’ve learned to love that. When she sees something she wants, she goes after it. She doesn’t hesitate. She’s always up for adventure, and the obvious unconditional love that animals bring.