Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Farewell to Mt. Nittany Institute

Last Saturday I received a letter from my school, Mt. Nittany Institute of Natural Health, stating that after this spring, it would cease to exist. I was completely stunned and confused. We had just rallied to save the school less than a year ago. It was one of 2,500 other small trade schools across the nation set to loose student funding and be forced to close. There was a huge outpouring of support and love. 110 support letters were written. 521 signatures signed to petition it's safety. It was a huge victory. In the end it was 1 of four to be reinstated nationwide and survive. A true miracle. And I say, "thank you" to Sallie Mae CEO Jim Eickhoff for that. But in the letter, my teacher, Anne (who I will always dearly love and respect), and owner of the school had chosen to follow her own smaller business pursuits and the school was to be closed and in addition, the building demolished.

I felt an instant panic set in. I LOVE this school. And however cliché, feel it is like air to me. And now additionally, there was the pressure that the first workshop that I would facilitate on my own would be one of the final classes taught in it's 15 history. It is an true honor but very scary as well. Now at this point, I want to add that, as a student, if I have learned anything, it is never to judge another's decision about what's best for their life's path. I stand firmly in that belief. This post is simply me putting to words my emotional journey.

The back story:
In 2007, I was led to the Holistic Health program at a time in my life when I was searching for new meaning. I went to the open house for another curriculum knowing that Holistic Health Practitioner Training was geared more toward people with a teaching, counseling, or nursing background. I was encouraged by a friend to attend that info session anyway. After the presentation, I literally started to cry it was so perfect. I had no idea that anything like that even existed. I asked if there was a chance that I could take the program even though my background was graphic design. Anne, my soon-to-be teacher, looked at me and smiled and said, "I think we can work something out."

Thus began the toughest year of my life. And the most cleansing. Four months into the program, I realized a divorce was necessary. My ex-husband is truly a caring and wonderful man but we needed to grow in our own separate ways. I came to realize sometimes it's better to leave while you still do have compassion for each other. And today we are still very good friends.

Six months into the program, I saw my class, composed of twelve of the most beautiful women I've ever met, emerge into pure strength and joy. Each overcoming personal obstacles they'd chosen to work through for the year. We were required to walk the talk. Every class weekend, we dove into the depths of the deepest, scariest, most unloved parts of ourselves and cried and supported each other through our catharses.

As the stages of my divorce moved forward, I changed back to my former last name, and I began what I believed was my first new relationship in twelve years. It turned out it was not meant to be. It was at that point everything hit me with an unimaginable force. This was my creation. And I needed to take ownership of it. Every last horrible bit. I got up every morning with such despair that I could hardly believe that I didn't simply cease to exist. I was alone for the first time in my life. Most of the labels that I'd identified myself with for 12 years were gone. I'd lost my name. I felt completely directionless and grieved to my friend that I realized that I didn't know how to not belong to someone. He replied, "you belong to all of us." Anne said to me, "you belong to you."

Through it all, my girls were supporting me and I was able to work thorough the pain in class exercises and through personal counseling sessions with Anne. I KNEW in my heart that I'd made the right decision. I just needed to embrace the lessons that go along with fearless living.

I woke up on January 1st, 2008 feeling as though the sun had come back into my life. I became completely euphoric with the idea of being alone. And once I embraced it, I was unstoppable. Everyday was total joy. It was the first time in my life I felt pure freedom and totally limitless. And it was then, after I allowed the joy to return, that I began dating my new sweetie. And I graduated.

My classmates, my teacher, and her assistant were/are my beloved sisters. We knew more about each other's struggles and longings than anyone else we'd known. And it was a beautiful honor. Many of us continued to take workshops there, feeling like we had come back to a loving home each time.

By now, I'm sure you can imagine why receiving that letter was so difficult and why this school means so much to me. I don't know what I would have become without it. I thought of the "Miracle Man" from "The Secret." While in the hospital with a crushed windpipe, he kept telling himself, "breathe deep." Eventually he was able to breathe on his own. Because he believed he could. I thought about Mt. Nittany Institute, my "air" and came to a realization. For the past two years, I've been growing stronger and more centered. I've been confidently learning to breathe on my own. And I've been helping others to do the same. The school had already done it's share of my work. I had taken that knowledge with gratitude and built a new, amazing life. It was ok to say goodbye. I sat very still, with the letter in my hand knowing that this is just one more beginning in a life that's had many. I shut my eyes and said, "Breathe deep Stacy." "Breathe deep."


  1. Even when the building is gone, the community that formed there will still exist because all of you carry it around in your hearts.

  2. What a beautiful post. Even though I've known you throughout this journey you've taken, it meant a lot to read it as your story.

  3. I cried from the minute I read the title and tears are still coming down. I didn't realize how much this closing has affected me until I read your beautiful, moving post. We are grieving the end of an era. An era which has transformed us in immeasurable ways. Thank you for putting it into such eloquent and touching words. And, like Marie Young said so well, the community still exists and you, my love, will continue to do your magnificent work, regardless of where you are.

  4. Thank you everyone for all the beautiful comments. I really appreciate all of your loving support.
    @Liz-I was crying while writing it. I think that's why it took me so long to finally get it published. Love you all. We'll find new ways to be together and grow. I'm sure of it :-)

  5. What an elequent post! I feel much same about my YTT experience at Mt. Nittany and the loving friendships I made there...it seems hard to believe that the Institute will no longer serve to create such joyous community. I hope someone else will step forward to hold that sacred space in the future....Who knows, maybe it will be you! In the meantime, we have your workshops to look forward to. Can't wait.


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