Dennis Lewis was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He studied philosophy at the University of Wisconsin and received a degree in philosophy/religion from San Francisco State University in 1967. He has worked as an art gallery director, computer programmer/analyst, book editor, and public relations executive. He formed his own PR agency, called Hi-Tech Public Relations, with a partner in 1981. They sold the agency to a large English firm in 1988, and Lewis left the agency two years later. The agency had grown to 45 people.
The Search for What Is Real
Lewis has been on the path of self-knowledge and self-transformation his entire adult life. In 1964, he came across books about the teachings of the great spiritual pathfinder G. I. Gurdjieff. In 1966, realizing he needed more than books to help him, he went in search of a Gurdjieff group and soon made contact with the Gurdjieff Foundation of California. After several years of study in groups under the direction of Lord John Pentland--who had been put in charge of the The Work in America, was president of the Gurdjieff Foundation in New York, and directed the foundation in San Francisco--Lewis was given the responsibility by him of helping to lead a group in San Francisco. Lord Pentland also gave him permission to start his own Gurdjieff group in Phoenix, Arizona, a group which he continued for about six years.
Starting in the late 1980s, Lewis studied intensively for three years with the remarkable Advaita Vedanta master Jean Klein, whose work included an esoteric form of yoga and pranayama.
The Beginning of His Healing Work
In 1990, around the time that Lewis left his agency, he found himself with an abdominal pain that no one, including medical doctors, could diagnose. Searching for a "cure" for this problem, he met a practitioner of a Taoist form of healing called Chi Nei Tsang (CNT), which involves breathing work and internal organ "chi" massage. The problem went away within several weeks. Lewis decided to learn CNT and quickly became a practitioner, certified by Taoist Master Mantak Chia. Lewis started his own Chi Nei Tsang practice and also worked in a well-known acupuncture clinic in San Francisco (Shen’s Healing Center).
In 1991, Lewis started taking classes in Taoist meditation and chi kung from Mantak Chia and other instructors at Chia’s Healing Tao Center. After two years, Lewis himself became a Healing Tao instructor and began giving classes in breathing work, meditation, and chi kung in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Starting in late 1994, Lewis studied for two years with Dr. Wang Shan Long, a chi kung master from China, who gave him permission to teach Liangong in 18 Exercises, a series of postures and movements oriented toward fitness and health.
Since early 1997, Lewis has participated in a variety of intensive workshops and trainings with Taoist master Bruce Kumar Frantzis, who has certified him to teach Level 1 of "The Opening the Energy Gates Chi Gung Program" and, most recently, "Wu Style Tai Chi Short Form."
The Work of Self-Knowledge & Self-Transformation
Based on his many years of exploration in the Gurdjieff Work, Advaita Vedanta, Taoism, and chi kung, Lewis believes that the work of self-knowledge and self-transformation is a work that requires the participation of our whole being--body, emotions, mind, and, especially, consciousness. He believes that the foundation of this work must include a deep awareness of the body, that extraordinary alchemical factory that produces the energies we need not just for living and well-being, but also for spiritual growth. His emphasis today, therefore, is on "self-sensing," the exploration through presence, through awareness, of the miraculous energies of life itself, and how these energies are conditioned by our habits of mind, feeling, posture, breath, and movement. Lewis believes that without a serious work of self-sensing, a work which must include a deep exploration of our breath, a great deal of our so-called spiritual work resides mainly in our thought and imagination, with little impact on our lives.
Lewis’s writing has appeared in numerous publications, including Yoga Journal, Gnosis, Parabola, Somatics, Library Journal, Manas, and the San Francisco Chronicle. He is editor, with Jacob Needleman, of two books: Sacred Tradition & Present Need (Viking) and On the Way to Self Knowledge (Knopf). His book The Tao of Natural Breathing: For Health, Well-Being and Inner Growth, which was published in English in September, 1996, by Mountain Wind Publishing, has also been published in German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, and Dutch. His two-cassette audio program, entitled Breathing as a Metaphor for Living, was released by Sounds True in September 1998, and was converted into a three-CD program under the title Natural Breathing in May 2005. His widely acclaimed book Free Your Breath, Free Your Life: How Conscious Breathing Can Relieve Stress, Increase Vitality, and Help You Live More Fully was published by Shambhala Publications in May 2004. His latest book, Breathe Into Being: Awakening to Who You Really Are", was published in May 2009 by Quest Books.
Lewis is a contributor (a section on natural, whole-body breathing) to a book on qigong, entitled Chi Kung - Energy for Life, By James MacRitchie, Thorsons/Harper Collins, 2002. He is also included (two pages) in The Complete Idiot's Guide to Taoism, Alpha Books, 2002, by Brandon Toropov and Chad Hansen. He wrote the chapter entitled "Breath Therapy" (p 616-617) that appears in Alternative Cures: The Most Effective Natural Home Remedies, written by Bill Gottlieb and published by Rodale Press. He is also quoted in Stress Relief & Relaxation Techniques by Judith Lazarus.
Since the publication of The Tao of Natural Breathing, Lewis has been speaking and leading workshops throughout the United States, including famed Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. He has also been appearing on radio and television.
Lewis is listed in Who's Who in America. His son, Benoit Denizet-Lewis, is the author of America Anonymous: Eight Addicts in Search of a Life, and writes articles for numerous publications, including The New York Times Magazine, and has taught nonfiction writing at Emerson College and Tufts University.
Blog (essays, exercises, parables, musings, workshops)
Twitter (daily breathing and awareness tips and insights)