I was in Ann Arbor touring the University of Michigan with my daughter this week.  I stopped in a local yoga studio to take a class and much to my delight, they were offering a free meditation session before class.  So I joined the group, took a seat on my mat, and started to draw my focus inward.  Just as I was getting into a groove with my mind following my breath, the teacher turned on music.  The song he chose is a song I’ve been playing recently in my yoga classes, during a time when I am warming people up and getting them to move in time with their  breath.  All of a sudden I felt a strong urge to come to all fours and move my spine.  I just couldn’t sit still with this song in my ears.  The environmental cue was strong. Said tune comes on, I move my spine.  So I did.  I don’t think anyone noticed, as all eyes were closed, but it struck me that we can use our surroundings and our senses to help us achieve our goals and cement habits we are trying to cultivate.

One of the branches of Blue Tree Coaching is mindfulness.  While my clients don’t necessarily have a meditation practice, I encourage them to engage in some kind of regular mindfulness practice.  This is important not just to manage stress and increase focus, but because I know that having space for contemplation and reflection is necessary for any kind of growth.

I meditate in the same spot in my home office every day.  I sit in my very comfortable chair, next to a little table with a philosophy book, a little rock with an “om” sign on it, a set of mala beads, and big candle.  As soon as I settle into the chair next to the table with my meditation accoutrements, my mind gets a signal: it’s time to close my eyes, become aware of my breath, and begin to draw my focus inward.

If there is a habit or a practice you are working to cultivate, use environmental cues.  Want to exercise each morning?  Place your workout clothes next to your bed.  Trying to start meditating?  Create a little space for your practice and use it consistently.  The power of our surroundings is strong.  Knowing this, we can manage our space with intention and skill to set us up for success.