There is always a tendency of the body to sabotage the attention of the mind by providing some distraction," the poet Stephen Spender wrote. Who understands that better than the person in a small group meeting unable to focus on spiritual matters because of an uncomfortable atmosphere? Whether hosting or leading your small group you can create an environment that makes sense for study:
"To see clearly is poetry, prophecy and religion, all in one."
—John Rushkin, Modern Painters
Sight: Lamplight is more ambient than overhead light, but experiment with lamp placement to fill in the shadows around one lamp with the cast from another. Also, meet in a circle where everyone is at the same eye-level and can see each other's faces to facilitate equal participation and sharing.
"I took in strains that might create a soul."
—John Milton, Comus
Sound: Play soft music as people arrive, but turn it off before you begin. Situate children as far from your meeting room as possible.
"Scent can be so powerful it transports us to joy or remembered grief."
Smell: We can get so accustomed to the smells in our home that we don't notice them anymore: pet odors, last night's dinner, heavy perfumes, even some room deodorants. Compensate for what might smell good to you, but is obnoxious to others: Set up a fan to pull air out of your meeting room, providing good ventilation.
"True companions are those who eat bread with one another."
—Old English Proverb
Taste: Straight-from-the-oven brownies, popcorn or a beautifully-arranged tray of fruit do more than encourage group interaction. They let people know you want them there and planned ahead.
"Our skin is what stands between us and the world." —Diane Ackerman, ...