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.
Jen Slayden
View all posts by Jen Slay­den

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