What the Rocky Mountains Taught Me About Life

According to Danish philosopher S. Kierkegaard, Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.   I have spent the past few weeks looking back on a life-changing event: reaching the summit of a 14,265 foot peak in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. 

You might be thinking - What’s the big deal…a lot of people do that.  True, but for me, the goal was not solely about reaching the summit.  It was about extracting truth from the mountains to help me live forward.  In all of their formidable ruggedness, the mountains tenderly answered my call.  Now, I share these truths with you so that your life’s journey may be made a little easier.


Everyone’s journey is unique.

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One of the greatest pitfalls in life is comparing our lives to the lives of others.  This brings discouragement and disappointment.  There is a unique plan for every life. You are a one-of-a-kind person…celebrate that wonder.   I climbed at a snail’s pace to reach the summit.  My son scrambled over rocks with ease.  His dog, who was carrying his own little doggie pack, made it to the top before me.  That’s okay…. I’m me!


Your outcome is determined by your heart and your will.

The human heart is the vessel which contains the essence of life.   It is not only the seat of our emotions but also the seat of our intelligence.  In other words, the heart possesses the human will.   If you will in your heart to do something, it can be done.  When people lose heart, they often lose the desire to go on.  We must guard our hearts.   About 100 feet from the summit of Mt. Quandary, I lost my heart.  I just didn’t want to do it anymore.  I knew that I had the energy and stamina, but I didn’t have the will to finish the course.  Thankfully, Tyler and Jess kept calling me upward.  Their encouragement rekindled the fire in my heart, and I finished well!


Take time to enjoy the journey.

No more crazy rushing!  Life passes too quickly.  Now that I am 61 years old, I have some perspective on life.  Trust me…before you know it…you’ll be gray-haired, too.  So enjoy every minute.  Savor the journey.  Savor your relationships.  As the saying goes – “smell the coffee.”  This Canadian Rocky Mountain goat was resting 800 feet from the summit.  A worker was doing some trail maintenance, and this cute, little goat just nestled in the cool soil which the worker had unearthed.  No rushing…just plenty of reflecting.


Take one step at a time.

Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing. – Barry Finlay

This is the view of Mt. Quandary from a roadside vantage point.  Mt. Quandary is the peak that touches the cloud.  When I first beheld the mountain, as we were driving to the trail head, I said a prayer.  I needed God’s help because doubt was beginning to seize me.  What I learned, as the climb commenced, is not to keep looking at the summit or the next highest peak (if the summit isn’t in view).  Continually looking for the summit leads to discouragement and defeatism.  Instead, keep your focus on the steps in front of you…give it all you’ve got…and before you know it…you’ve advanced your position.  This mentality will get you to the top of a mountain and to the top of your game.


Receive the help and encouragement offered by others.

Friends, family, and fellow sojourners - we need them!  Relationships didn’t always carry such deep-seated meaning for me.  (Keep reading to the end of the blog, and you’ll discover how this changed.)  First and foremost, I never would have fulfilled this dream without my son and his fiancée.  (Thank you, my dear ones!)  On the climb to the top, I met wonderful people.  Many friendly climbers stopped to offer words of encouragement and cheer.  Their ages spanned the spectrum.  Some were from Colorado.  At least three were from Connecticut.  The message was clear from these dear folks who had already been to the summit – Keep going, it is worth it!  Isn’t that what we need to hear as we journey through life?  Receive the heartfelt gifts offered by others; they will nourish your soul.


Take time to celebrate your achievements.

Up until this point in my life, I had never beheld a 360 degree view from a mountain peak.  There are no words to describe the splendor!  I remember thinking, God, there is no one like you. Thank you for giving me this gift.  Then, I breathed deeply (of the scarce air at 14,000 feet), took photographs in my mind (to keep for a lifetime), made a quick video, and prepared to descend (because a mountain goat was after the dog).  As in life, you will not always abide on the mountaintop.  This experience is only for a moment.  Draw strength, encouragement, and insight from the pinnacle and then move on.


Be mindful and vigilant when the going gets easy.

Climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are nought without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste; look well to each step; and from the beginning think what may be the end.  - Edward Whymper

The descent never stresses me.  It feels easy compared to the ascent.  I’m home-free on the way down.   Oh, how foolish of me!  Somehow, I seem to forget that I am still on a rugged mountain which is fraught with all sorts of hazards.   Injuring a knee or rolling an ankle can occur in a flash if you are not focusing on your footing.   In seconds - fatigue, sloppiness, and brain drain can sabotage an otherwise stupendous climb.  On the way down from Mt. Quandary, I was hungry, thirsty, and headachy.  It was too late in the day to be at 14,000 feet.  My son was becoming increasingly concerned about our safety . . . so the operative word became “hustle!”  I sat down only once on the descent.  Thankfully, everything turned out well, but that is not the way to approach life’s journey.  You must remain focused when the going gets seemingly easy.  Life’s entire journey requires vigilance!


Love and care for yourself.

It took me twenty-four hours to recover from my nine hour climbing experience. When we reached the car, I took my boots off, reclined the seat, and went into a semi-coma.  I literally could not open my eyes.  I discovered something quirky about this kind of exhaustion - it is exhilarating!   It felt like every cell in my body was humming with life.  Rest assured, I took very good care of myself post-climb.  I ate, drank, and slept…ate, drank, and slept…ate, drank, and slept…you get the picture.  Slowly but surely, I was restored.

Learning to love and care for myself began three years ago.  Having lived for fourteen years in a hellish, abusive marriage, I adopted the survival mode:  don’t think – don’t feel – exist. Essentially, Pat vanished.   I had been churched for over thirty years, but man’s religious system kept me in the false belief that I was normal and life was A-okay.

And then one day, my concrete fortress began to crumble.  God has infinite resources to heal a broken heart.  He reached my heart, mind, spirit, and body via a music listening program known as The Listening Program (learn more).  If you know me, you know that The Listening Program (TLP) is a big part of my life and private practice.   The Listening Program transforms lives.  I have witnessed this in my own life and in the lives of my clients.  TLP addresses a multitude of human challenges across the age spectrum.  The Listening Program doesn’t change the brain; instead, it invites the brain to change itself via sound frequencies.  It is a beautiful blend of art and science.

It would be my privilege to guide you through your own TLP experience.  If you are interested, please contact me.  Your own magnificent transformation awaits!