Bubbles. Lots and Lots of Bubbles.

Mohonk Mountain House

Mohonk Mountain House

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.

Three Minute Meditator

The Three Minute Meditator

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.

View of MMH

View of Mohonk Mountain House

Have a good week.

More to come…


Images in Black and White

I’ve always loved black-and-white photography.

In college I learned my way around a dark room and can still remember the thrill of seeing a photo appear on a blank piece of paper submerged in a tray of chemicals.

So naturally, I was overjoyed when our daughter Claire – then a freshman in high school – expressed interest in learning old-style black-and-white photography.

Over the course of the past three years, she’s produced some wonderful pictures.  She has a great eye and has become more adventuresome each year.

Now as she wraps up her work in high school, she’s put together a small gallery of 12 photos from her class.  Click on the link and you’ll see what she’s posted.

And I’ll end below with a photo of Claire’s that’s now on prominent display in her school’s gallery.  This is a picture she took this summer at Mohonk Mountain House which looks like a time piece out of the 1940s. Can you tell…I think she’s great!

More to come…


Mohonk Mountain House…A Place Like No Other

Mohonk Mountain House is one of those special places on this planet that nurtures the soul. If you don’t believe me then take the word of The Nature Conservancy, which has designated the thousands of unspoiled acres surrounding Mohonk as one of its Last Great Places on earth.

I’ve been here for the past two days for a series of meetings with colleagues and partners from the Northeast.  Together we’ve discussed, among other topics, the role historic preservation plays in environmental sustainability.  Last night when my friend Nina Smiley told the group of the wonderful history of Mohonk Mountain House, it was clear that few places showcase the relationship between nature, sustainability, and unique historic places better than Mohonk.

Nina gave a wonderful talk, full of tales of twin Quaker brothers establishing this hotel, but naming it the Mohonk Mountain House to avoid the unsavory reputation hotels and inns held in their day.  Over 141 years of ownership by the Smiley family, Mohonk has remained “the same…only better” to use Nina’s words.  As the website notes:

Much as one sees Lake Mohonk today, Alfred H. Smiley saw it in 1869 when he visited the Shawangunk Mountains on a picnic outing. He and his twin brother, Albert K., envisioned a peaceful retreat where people could enjoy the beauty of nature in a truly spectacular setting. Albert purchased the property from John F. Stokes, and the brothers eventually turned the ten-room inn and tavern into the grand House it is today.

I also learned at dinner last evening from my colleague Alicia that Lowell’s Boat Shop – a 2009 winner in the Boston Partners in Preservation program and a wonderful place in its own right – supplies the wooden dories for Mohonk that generations have enjoyed during the summer.  Lowell’s was one of my favorite sites from the Partners in Preservation program, so the connection with Mohonk seemed very appropriate.

In between meetings, I’ve been hiking and taking photographs.  Visit the Mohonk website to learn more about the historic preservation and environmental stewardship that’s a part of everyday life – and corporate culture – for this unique place.  More importantly, find the time to visit Mohonk Mountain House at some point in your life and soak up the spirit of this place that’s like no other.  Finally, enjoy the photos below, taken on a glorious spring day in New York.

More to come…