Nina Smiley and her husband, Bert, were pursuing successful careers in Washington, D.C., when the forest came knocking in 1990. Mohonk Mountain House, the iconic resort hotel founded by Bert’s great-grand-uncle Albert Smiley, needed someone to take the reins. The couple talked it over, and soon became the only married couple with Princeton PhDs to become innkeepers.
When the Smileys opened Mohonk’s spa in 2005, they integrated mindfulness. “I’d learned meditation in the 1970s, and it did wonders for me,” notes Smiley, co-author of a book, The Three Minute Meditator, with her twin brother, David Harp.
Smiley became the resort’s director of mindfulness programming two years ago. The primeval setting practically begs it — when Mohonk was founded in 1869, it invited people to walk its trails in an inspirational setting. The benefits hold true today, as Smiley leads forest-bathing walks that incorporate mindfulness in nature.
“I teach guests and staff, and I do it with delight,” she says. “It’s a way of nurturing them. Meditation and mindfulness help reduce stress and improve health and relationships.”
What piece of advice would you like to share?
“Balance your energy with mindfulness. When you take away stress, there’s a lot of energy there. You can learn to use that energy in a more skillful, focused way when you are simply present in the moment, without an overlay of drama and emotions.”
Smiley was honored as a Mindful Muse earlier this year by Good Housekeeping, and both she and her husband were named Business Persons of the Year in 2007 by the SUNY New Paltz Business School.
Bert nominated Nina for the Women in Business Award before his passing in October. In his nomination, Bert said this: “As fourth-generation President of the family business, I felt fortunate to have Nina, my wife by my side as soulmate and business partner. Her ability to be analytical and intuitive, to nurture and support our team, while also setting high standards for performance have been an inspiration to all.”
When asked what she hopes her legacy will be, Smiley responds, “In working side-by-side with my husband Bert, we helped steward Mohonk Mountain House into the 21st century, honoring its essence and changing the details as needed to ensure it will continue to provide re-creation and renewal for future generations.”