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

{ 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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