On a visit to Mohonk Mountain House earlier this year, I took the opportunity to reconnect with Dr. Nina Smiley. Nina has the wonderful title of Director of Mindfulness Programming at this Victorian-era resort that has been in the Smiley family since 1869. I first met Nina almost twenty years ago when she was serving on the board of the National Trust’s Historic Hotels of America, and she remains one of the most thoughtful, perceptive, strong, yet gentle people I know. Talking with Nina is—to put it simply—a joy.
When we spoke in March, the topic turned—naturally—to mindfulness. As the author of The Three Minute Meditator, Nina believes that mindfulness can be just minutes away if we give thought to how we communicate with ourselves. That often requires recognition that our self-talk can be taking us away from the moment and leading us into a negative rut. In the course of the conversation, Nina suggested as an exercise taking a simple task that you do multiple times a day—such as washing your hands—and using that as a cue to bring your thoughts back into the moment.
It seems that finding a cue that works for you is key. Shortly after my conversation with Nina, I found myself at a wash basin in an airport restroom. I clearly wasn’t focused on the task at hand, but this time the outside intrusion helped bring me back to the moment. Around the corner, I could hear a father speaking to what was clearly his very young son. The dad’s instructions went something like this: “Let’s begin with the water. Now add some soap. Begin to rub your hands together and create bubbles. Lots of bubbles. Lots and lots of bubbles….now rinse the bubbles off your hands. Finally, let’s dry those hands.”
It was a simple and charming 20-second exchange. But I don’t think I’ll ever forget that moment. It was the cue I needed to take something simple and use it as a way to reconnect to the moment. It is an exercise, if you will, to move closer to mindfulness, which Nina and her co-author (and twin brother) David Harp, define as “a mental state characterized by clarity, insight, compassion, and serenity, no matter what is going on around you.”
Clarity. Insight. Compassion. Serenity. Those traits appear to be in short supply in today’s world, where we are constantly bombarded by outside stimuli. Perhaps you have your own cues to bring you back to the moment. If not, feel free to do as I do, and think “bubbles” as you stand at the wash basin. It may lead to a small step back to mindfulness.
Have a good week.
More to come…