Gratitude to the Graduate Institute

Paula, Mindy, Alicia, Emmie, Adriana, Denise, Debby, Michelle (Me), Ginger, Eileen, Rob, Debbi, Stan, Kevin

I awoke early this morning, something that was unexpected as this is the first day of “freedom” after presenting my culminating project for my master’s degree. My cat Pip had jumped onto the bed for his morning snuggle and as we spooned together I could feel his love radiate through me. I thought immediately of how my integrative health degree has opened my eyes to the power of animal therapy, and unleashed a greater sense of love, joy, and an altruistic spirit that has been profoundly healing.

Then thoughts jumped to my colleagues in The Graduate Institute IHH program who also had been changed and inspired by animal therapy, sound healing, meditation, art therapy and so much more. My thoughts quickly grew to appreciation, respect, admiration, and love. The colleagues that shared those healing modalities with me on the educational journey brought a positive energy, enthusiasm, and collective curiosity that surely amplified the experience. Which leads me to ponder – was it the amazing power of the healing modalities we learned that transformed us, or was it our own communal joy that made the experience so amazing? Akin to the question as to whether placebos are what really heal people – I am led to conclude that the answer doesn’t matter as much as the result. When we are engulfed in happiness we need not question its existence or analyze why it has occurred, all we need to do is bask in its reality with acceptance and appreciation. And that is exactly what I am doing this morning.

To honor that appreciation, I would like to say a little bit about each of the colleagues that stood by my side during this amazing journey. Ours was a group of 13. Upon learning that fact 22 months ago I grew weary because as they say 13 is an unlucky number. Yet, this amazing collection of spirits was anything but unlucky. To say I was blessed is an understatement.

Here is why:

Denise (our Sherpa / Program Coordinator)

You carry a light within you and around you that is so overwhelming and empowering that you calm, soothe, and encourage with your mere presence. You have helped me relax, feel better in my own skin, and shine in ways I never thought possible. You are beauty inside and out, and I am thankful to my core that you led our group, as you did it so incredibly gracefully and thoughtfully.


You are so incredibly intelligent, thoughtful, compassionate, and encouraging. You have been one of the greatest cheerleaders I have ever had in my life. Your deep sense of inquiry challenges me and encourages me to delve deeper. You make me want to be a better person and show me just how through example and love. I will always cherish our friendship.


I sat next to you on our first class for a reason – your calm, healing energy drew me to you. As Bud Stone said, you have a “naturally affirming face” which really means – you wear your love. I have been so inspired by your longstanding interest and history in natural healing and the beautiful ways you have weaved it into your life and your work. You are a natural healer. There is such a beautiful light that radiates from you; in every essence from the twinkle of your eyes to the soothing quality of your voice. You bring such a gift to your patients and you will heal so many with your hypnotherapy skills.


You have shown me so much through example. You are so loving, empathetic, and free with your emotions. So often I would be fighting back tears, and was comforted by the fact that you were able to let them flow. As you have said, “how can you not be moved?” You have such amazing gifts and have been so brave, open, and honest in sharing them with us. To say you are an original is an understatement. There is just no one like you, and yet as you often remind us we are all one. I am I happy to know that I carry your essence within me.


Your deep knowledge and experience in nursing has given such depth and contrast to our learning. So too has your experience as a patient. But, most of all your love of animals and completely selfless interest in helping them inspires me tremendously. Keep shining your light in spite of your challenges.


Your inherent artistic talents absolutely astound me. To watch you doodle is a breathtaking experience. It is impossible to deny the existence of a divine power when you see what comes through your pen. But, more importantly you are just such a tremendous example of yin and yang in balance. Your yang masculine energy and strength are matched by your yin compassion, love, and concern for others. Your patients are blessed. You have managed to incorporate all of your gifts into your work and it is just so inspiring.


You carry yourself with such grace, confidence, and beauty. You are always quick with a warm smile and kind word. Your joy, sense-of-humor, generosity, and delicious cooking have been such an uplifting addition to our group. It warms my heart when you share how fully you integrate what we learn into your home. Your “mother spirit” is exceptionally strong – your kids are truly blessed.


You too carry an incredible mothering energy. You always want to help and offer input, and it is clear that you see each of your students as your children (in addition to “A” and your doggie of course). Your enthusiasm and energy are boundless. I have always appreciated glancing at you during class and seeing that same sense of wonderment and awe that I was experiencing. It was nice too to have a crying partner. I am so excited about how you are bringing your beautiful writing and passion for integrative healing to your students.

Adriana (“A”)

You are everyone’s little sister. As the program progressed it was so wonderful to watch you experience major life changes – marriage, a new job – with enthusiasm and a growing confidence. Your compassion and love for animals, and ability to interact with them so effortlessly is such a beautiful gift. I hope you will continue to pursue your altruistic spirit and enthusiasm for learning because your future is very bright and you just keep getting better and better.


You are so beautiful inside and out. Your loving, warm spirit was ever present even as you maintained your quiet, introspective nature. I have never heard you utter a negative word, as you maintain such sweetness and grace in your gentle being. The final declaration of your culminating project – that what we all really need to do to find balance is to listen – to our body, mind and spirit – was incredibly profound, and, so meaningful coming from someone so dedicated to listening rather than speaking.


You are a firecracker of enthusiasm and energy. You have so much depth to your character and personality. You are the life of the party, while also being a deeply introspective, intelligent, and inquisitive woman. You are a natural teacher whether it is of yoga, the expressive arts, or simply with your own children. And, your writing is amazing. Your culminating project completely blew me away. Don’t ever let anyone’s opinions or path influence you. You are on your own path and you will surely find the most comfortable way for you to share your talents and interests with the world (although I suspect you are already doing that). There are no limits on you. Go where your overflowing heart takes you.


I am so grateful for your presence in our group. You grounded us with logic and sometimes skepticism, while also uplifting us with your strength and compassion. You have a tough exterior wrapped around a heart of gold. It makes me so happy to know that you are touching the lives of kids (not just your own beautiful 3). The town of Stamford is blessed to have you educating, coaching, and encouraging their children. Personally, I will never forget how you stood by my side during my first acupuncture experience and said, “don’t worry you are in good hands.” I can’t express how comforting your presence was and how completely sure I was of your words. Whatever you decide to do in the future you will do well because you do it with love.


Last, but certainly not least, you have been so open and honest to this experience. You are our comic relief and have always been generous with your input and personal stories. I have loved learning about your personal path in the program. As you’ve said, you went from feeling like we all just might be crazy to “turning to a ball of mush.” Your strong, tough exterior was no match for your warm heart which ultimately had its way. I am so glad that you are offering your gifts to kids who so deeply need the wisdom and personal experience you impart, and also that you are following your passion for educating others on health. It is not an easy journey, but you have the charisma and drive to succeed. Best of luck with and in your upcoming wedding.

And, I can’t forget about our dedicated Program Director:


You have been absolutely amazing! You have brought us such incredibly authentic, intelligent, inspiring instructors. Your spirit is light-of-heart, youthful, and ever enthusiastic. Although there were times we all just wanted you to show us the way, you were so strong and steadfast in making sure that ours was our own path, paved by our own passions. You are truly an exceptional person organizing an extraordinary program.

And to all the staff at The Graduate Institute (Bud, Andy, Leslie, and so many others) who have been so instrumental in our education. We are all so thankful for you and the opportunity you have provided for wonderment and awe. You lit the spark, and we shall carry forth the flame.

Faith, Hope and Love, but the greatest of these is


Namasté, Michelle

8 thoughts on “Gratitude to the Graduate Institute”


    Your words are a warm embrace to my soul. During this weekend, tears of joy in getting to know our cohort, blended with tears of sadness that our “official” time of sharing our experiences over the past two years has come to an end. As you so eloquently pointed out, each person has brought forth a light that enhances and illuminates our own further. YOU have been a role model for strength, smiles, and inspiration! I hope I can share from my acknowledgments page of my book:

    IDEAS represent my “rebirth,” the height of my personal and professional transformation over the past two years at The Graduate Institute. It is to the school and my colleagues, first and foremost, that I owe a tremendous amount of gratitude. The Graduate Institute is a nationally accredited institution that values the intellect and individual interests, skills, and cognitive abilities of its colleagues. Coordinators Denise Romano and Shari Specland embraced the role of “sherpa,” and like the Himalayan guides, they showered on me the encouragement and support I needed to define my own path.
    The Sanskrit word for teacher or master is “guru” (Devanagari गुरु), and as my guru, Bud Stone provided me with his powerful gifts of listening to my ideas and faith in my abilities as they emerged. Bernie Siegel, my mentor, my inspiration, and my friend, thank you for teaching me that to find my authentic self, I need only remember to live my life. Your ability to create a safe place for others to express themselves freely is one I hope to emulate. I am grateful to Diana Boehnert, my internship director, who encouraged me to explore expressive arts as a way to liberate the imagination while deepening the connection with others and self.
    My cohort … Michelle Traub, Eileen Carino, Debby O’Brien, Debbi Tyrrel, Rob DeMatteo, Kevin DeAngelo, Stan (“ley”) Lamour, Emmie Russo, A Frasier, Alicia Serkis, Ginger Bascom, Paula Pryor… I will forever value our dialogue over the past two years. Thank you for helping me see, hear, smell, taste, touch and feel the vibrational ebbs and flows of life.
    A salute to the TGI Community, all of our speakers facilitating the experiential learning process, including Joan Palmer, Caroline Myss, J. David Forbes, M.D., Gene Ang, Ph.D., Dr. Steve Horowitz, Deanna Paqua, Dr. B, Lauri Grossman, Maren Good, Ingrid Bacci, Nigel Palmer, Chris Patella, Lisa Zaccheo, Dr. Sensenig, Dr. Lily Marie Blecher, Kell Julliard … I am indebted to these pioneers for cultivating within me the abilities to listen to my heart and have the courage to speak my truth from a loving place. I have learned the importance of forgiveness in healing and the importance of balance in wellness.
    I wish each of you a lifetime of happiness, hope, and love.

  2. Dearest Michelle,

    Wow, what a beautiful tribute to all of us, thank you for that!
    It has been an amazingly wonderful experience.

    I would like to add that showing us the depth and breadth of
    your sensitive and loving heart has truly humbled me.
    It is clear to see that your tears have turned to crystals
    and your path made clear.

    As always,


        I learned this mantra in yoga teacher training. I love the Deva Premal version, also available on youtube. But the link below so captured the essence of our two years together as a cohort.
        I hope everyone enjoys it; it is always what I come back to for centering:

        AumBhurBhuvah Swah, Tat Savitur Varenyam
        Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi, DhiyoYo Nah Prachodayat
        ॐ भूर्भुव: स्व:तत्सवितुर्वरेण्यं । भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि,धीयो यो न: प्रचोदयात् ।।

        A basic translation can be given as…

        Oh God, the Protector, the basis of all life, Who is self-existent, Who is free from all pains and Whose contact frees the soul from all troubles, Who pervades the Universe and sustains all, the Creator and Energizer of the whole Universe, the Giver of happiness, Who is worthy of acceptance, the most excellent, Who is Pure and the Purifier of all, let us embrace that very God, so that He may direct our mental faculties in the right direction.

        With light, love and joy,

  3. Adriana Frasier

    The Graduate Institute, Sherpa D and our cohort ROCKS!!!
    Thank you all for empowering and guilding me along this amazing journey.
    Love to all!!!

  4. Denise Romano

    You brought tears to my eyes with this beautiful tribute to a truly incredible group….
    I didn’t think you could top your CP presentation, but this encore is yet another beautiful layer.
    I would be most honored to fill in a tribute to the other person in the group..and that would be You ,Michelle…
    You have found an incredible strength, energy, and light within.. your transformation was as graceful as the gentle unfolding of a butterfly releasing herself from that which was binding her….finding freedom and flight…
    I am most grateful that you have shared this beautiful treasure with all of us…. your
    fabulous smile, your dedication to truth and gift of words that are spun from the gold in your heart.
    You have found your authentic voice, and an honesty within. Your elegant talent for writing and your masterful
    creation of this site is awe inspiring.. You have blossomed, expanded and are simply glowing with joy from your new wings…
    It has been a supreme honor to be witness to the transformation and expansion of your minds and spirits through this program…
    May you continue to remain connected to each other as you are now..
    May you continue to learn and to gift the world with your essence…
    May you all Be Well in Body, Mind and Spirit..
    May you be fearless…
    and May you all embrace Joy, Light, Balance and Love in all parts of your world..
    I am blessed to have been a part of this journey with you..
    With so much love….
    Sherpa D

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