by Jen Slayden on · 7 comments


"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:)

by Jen Slayden

Jen Slayden finds her harmony in Western Montana with her husband Mark, their three kids, and an outdoor loving black lab named Cody. Stop by and check out her life in music, words, and education at Find Your Harmony.
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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Yum Yucky February 4, 2013 at 3:43 pm

ahhh. what an awesome adventure. One day I hope to transport myself to some rogue, yet beautiful place I’ve barely heard of to hike, connect with God and just take it all in. But hopefully there are no bears, bobcats, wolves or runaway giraffes along this path I hope to travel. 😉
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Jen February 6, 2013 at 8:55 pm

Yum Yucky,
Well, I have to say, the year before was the bear encounter story:)

And just like the analogy of mountains to climb, there are always dangers along the way too. But I refuse to let that keep me from living a great life:)

Thanks for being here.


jean sampson February 5, 2013 at 7:16 am

Makes this old lady want to go with you! 🙂


Jen February 6, 2013 at 8:56 pm

Awesome:) and another thing about mountains: They LOVE their age and are proud of it!
Happy Day Jean!
In Harmony,


Tim February 6, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Hi Jen:

All I can say is wow and your post hits me on a lot of levels. It’s great that you have this traveling companion – someone who has kept you on this path and shared in your journey. While I know you write about travel…I also know these mountains represent something different for all of us. Thanks for encouraging us to push past our comfort zone!
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Jen February 6, 2013 at 8:58 pm

Hi Tim,
ABSOLUTELY! Mountains are present whether you live in the west, or on the ocean or prairie. It is about facing our obstacles and living great…and we have to be out of our comfort zone to achieve that greatness!

I appreciate you being here!
In Harmony,


Betsy/Zen Mama February 10, 2013 at 11:04 pm

Your trips with your sister in law are so GREAT! I wish I had someone to make me take a trip like that. I have been working on little things though. I’ve read a lot about a statement of mind called, “Beginner’s Mind”. In Beginner’s Mind we forget everything we learned and we are in a state where everything is possible!
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