phototree

It's May in Montana! One of my favorite months of the year when the snow that has been holding on starts to melt away, the dreary days of winter slowly moving from sepia tones to hues of innocent pastels that invite new life.

Just last week, I awoke to my maple tree in the front yard, regarding the buds that had seemingly opened up overnight. I am always amazed by this phenomenon, because it seems like one day the tree is bare, and the next day it is opened! But I know that the tree has been planning this rebirth all through the winter, dreaming big about once again making its debut for another year! It has the same trunk, and the same branches, but new leaves- somehow honoring all the years of leaves that have come and gone seasonally.

We can learn a lot from nature! Nature has the cycles of life figured out! Mother Nature seems to always dream big; you only have to look at the Montana landscape snapshot of winter, then spring to recognize Mother Nature dreams BIG!

But more importantly, Mother Nature dreams and thinks smart. Her dreams are based on correct timing, because the flowers and plants actually calculate the amount of days they should be dormant. If a flowering plant were to bud too early, it may not be able to reproduce, or it could even die.

And yes, this sometimes happens in Montana, as I have seen when I planted my garden too early. So I guess the key we learn from Mother Nature is that timing is awfully important!

As I reflect upon my own life at the moment, I can understand so many parallels. I have had many goals and dreams I have written down in the last five years, trying hard to achieve a better me, live more in HARMONY, and be my best self.

A few times when I either tried to accomplish something too fast, or the timing wasn't right for these goals, I have not succeeded. However, the few times I practiced SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely) I had great success!

I also believe we are like my big maple tree in so many ways. We are the same person, living in the same body branching out. Our dreams, accomplishments, challenges, and life lessons are the leaves that we see change from season to season and year to year. We are a product of many cycles of dreaming, changing, taking risks, falling, and blooming once again.

So DREAM BIG, but also DREAM SMART. Take a few hints from Mother Nature and let yourself bloom!

Happy Spring!

In Harmony,

Jen


by Jen Slayden

Heart

A few weeks ago I went on a women's retreat at a beautiful home in the mountains called the Heart Center. Now other than a few church retreats when I was much younger, I have never committed to anything like this before and was a little weary about going.

A friend had invited me, and I found out by chance my sister-in-law also was going as well. But other than that I would be spending the weekend with a group of women whom I didn't know.

I love meeting and socializing with people- don't get me wrong! But from the itinerary it looked as if we would be diving quite heavily into the theme of transition and I wasn't quite sure my exhausted brain correlated connecting with a group of strangers to sink heavily into my deepest thoughts was my idea of a "retreat!" I briefly thought about sneaking out to spend my weekend in the sauna room! After all, my life has been so crazy busy of late, silence and SOLITUDE seems much more congruous that group therapy!

As I watched the women enter the center I found my mind making automatic assumptions about why they were there. Funny (or maybe not so much) how I still, after years, cannot stop my mind from false first impressions. For soon after our first gathering my mind shifted to a place of gratitude- for there were women of all backgrounds, ages and stages.

As the weekend progressed (and I did find a bit of time for running and a silent sauna!) I continued to learn more about the colorful tapestry of personalities, life challenges, and beautiful souls of the 20 plus woman that were present. Through activities and discussions I was able to remember that even though we were all at different stages of our lives we all needed one thing through our life transitions: connection! And it dawned on me that sometimes when I pull away out of busy-ness and exhaustion that is the very time I need PEOPLE- colorful, diverse, opinionated, loving, caring, people…so that I can remember that we are all much more alike than we are different!

The retreat couldn't have had a better outcome for me. By reflecting on connecting with others it has prompted me to take action every day to connect with a stranger, whether it is looking a cashier directly in the eye and thanking them for the work they do, or whether it is a smile to a passerby on the street.

I challenge all of us to try it, for something magical will happen, I guarantee! In the process of connecting with others, you find a deeper, more meaningful connection about your place on this earth, at this time, in this place. As I have found many times before, in helping (or reaching, or connecting) with others, we give ourselves the greatest gifts!

So as you go on your way connecting, I wish you all the love and gratitude I feel today!

In Harmony,
Jen


by Jen Slayden

When I saw the theme for the month from Lance, BE YOU, I immediately remembered an article I had written back in 2010 when I was contemplating the subject of self-worth and identity. It was a period in my life that I had become more aware of how much time I had wasted on wishing things were different, and somehow, that I was different.

I believe everyone goes through a stage in their lives where their self-confidence in who they are is shaken, whether it is in the teenage years, or even beyond. In my case, it was a long road starting from childhood. As an adult it finally dawned on me that I was best when I quit pretending or wishing I was someone else and embraced the remarkable ME!

I hope you enjoy my modified version of this recycled TRASH TALK:)

Today I am throwing out an emotion that is very common and oh so harmful: JEALOUSY.

I've spent most of my life walking under that hovering cloud, jealousy, whose acid raindrops blurred my vision and burned holes in my heart. ~ Astrid Alauda

I hate to admit I have been there myself. I have felt the acid raindrops when I thought I wasn't good enough, pretty enough, talented enough, or smart enough. There is definitely a reason that the word ends with LOUSY.

When I feel myself focusing on envy, I have found that it has taken me away from my true calling…to live a life of joy and peace.

Jealousy has a viral effect. Once you start focusing on it, it expands. Once a negative pattern starts to expand it becomes hard to break. So how do you overcome jealousy? It's as easy as changing the way you think. When you feel that twinge of envy permeate into your being STOP yourself. Ask yourself to throw it in the trash, and open your heart to the feeling of gratitude.

When you can feel gratitude for the gifts and good fortune of those you are envious of, you will be open to receive love and good fortune from them. Focus in on how their good fortune perhaps grace's your own life.

Everyone has a gift to offer. Don't let jealousy get in the way of receiving those wonderful gifts from the people you most envy. Think of jealousy as your great teacher. When you become aware of those envious feelings being present, and you toss them in the trash, you will learn to be more secure in yourself and feel grateful for your own life. You will, in essence, be able to be YOU…fully aware of how special and unique you are.

trash

What a load of trash!

JeaLOUSY is trash.  When you learn how to can it, embrace the remarkable YOU, you will indeed FIND YOUR HARMONY!

Jen


by Jen Slayden

Live GREAT!

by Jen Slayden on February 4, 2013 · 7 comments

mandj

"Beyond the mountains, there are mountains again." ~ Haitian proverb

For the past four years I have taken a summer hiatus from my ordinary life as mom, teacher, wife, and friend to backpack into the wilderness with my sister-in-law. We have scaled magnificent mountains, reconnected with each other and nature, and seen the beautiful, rugged scenery in which I feel blessed to have as my playground in the great state of Montana.

Every year, I have noticed my mindset at the beginning of our journey. I felt daunted by the thoughts of leaving my responsibilities behind, even for a few days. A bit of guilt ensued, even though my kids were well taken care of at a camp they thoroughly enjoyed. In my minds' eye, achieving MORE at home while the kids were gone would be more beneficial than taking time out for myself to tromp around the woods.

In fact, this past summer, I almost cancelled on my sister-in-law. But she is a planner! And she easily guilted me back into our original trip plan. I am oh-so-glad she did.

There was something magical about taking the first few steps on that trip. As we started walking up the trail, gaining altitude, the scenery around us transformed with every audible crunch underneath our hiking boots. My spirit started to transform as well. Slowly, with the weight of a pack upon my shoulders, I felt the weight of responsibility shed and my step become lighter. My mind was alchemizing from GUILT to GREAT!

For two days we were transported physically and spiritually into vast terrain and micro-climates. At one time in the trip we passed through Ptarmigan Tunnel, a rock tunnel built in the 1930s, which literally opens the door to a completely different world of red rock and mountain lakes on the other side. The view was breathtaking.

The irony of this tunnel is not lost on me, months later. So many times in my life I am hesitant to take that first step up the mountain, or through that new tunnel. Either guilt, fear, negative mind chatter, or the comfort of familiar habits (even bad habits) limit my ability to be my greater self! But when I think of all the mountains I have climbed, and the lessons I have learned each time I initially started on the new journey, I recognize that we all face a new mountain, small foothills, little bumps along life's highway…..every day.

The key to living in the GREAT is to turn off the left-sided linear and logical brain we live in too frequently, even for a while each day. By connecting with nature, each other, positive emotions, and our right-sided, creative brain we can begin to appreciate the small pleasures and simple things in life.

May you all be In Harmony by living GREAT:)
Jen


by Jen Slayden

Remember The Past, Work To The Future

by Jen Slayden

Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind ? Should old acquaintance be forgot, and old lang syne ? How many of you joined in the chorus of the popular tune “Auld Lang Syne” when the clock struck midnight on New Years? I know I did, and I have for years. But I […]

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I Challenge You To Life

by Jen Slayden

I challenge you to…..LIFE! I love the theme Lance picked for the month of December: Life Challenges. First off, I appreciate the way the word “challenge” insinuates that there is opportunity. I know that in my past I have viewed the word in a negative light. I would automatically think disaster, tragedy, confrontation, perhaps even […]

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Feeling Is Being Alive

by Jen Slayden

Halloween day I set out for an early morning jog, opening up my creative brain to sit and write this article about FEELING ALIVE. I realized after about five miles of pounding the pavement that it would be impossible to write about anything other than what has been on everybody’s mind: the devastating Hurricane Sandy […]

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Art Is Life

by Jen Slayden

“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. ” Albert Einstein Last month was a smudged picture of wispy gray canvas in Northwest Montana. Raging fires from our own state and two bordering states blew in thick, stagnant […]

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Think UP!

by Jen Slayden

Over Labor Day weekend my family took a road trip over to Idaho to go to Silverwood Park, a big amusement and water park near Sand Point. The talk of the trip was of the newest, scariest roller coasters they had opened up on Roller Coaster Alley with names like : Timber Terror, Panic Plunge, […]

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Serving Generations

by Jen Slayden

My 85-year-old father recently sent me a fascinating book by Tom Brokaw titled The Greatest Generation. I was immediately taken by stories of those from the Great Depression and the Second World War; especially how his generation really did shape the world we live in today. The synopsis of the book states “this generation was […]

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