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Question: Aside from extremes and obvious harm, does it matter where we place ourselves physically? I know we can and need to work whenever and wherever we are, but one cannot deny obvious occurrences and impressions in different neighborhoods, cities, states, etc. I wonder if one should purposely make efforts to live and work in “better” areas for a pleasant life.
Answer: There is no question about there being a relationship between our exterior environment and our interior life; think of the wind as it makes the leaves on a tree “sing” out, or the way listening to Beethoven’s Ninth can make the heart swell. All things are in relationship with their environment and, to a certain extent, the environment shapes both the creatures and the relationships existing within it.
That being said, part of one’s development is a gradual freedom first from unconscious interior influences, followed by freedom from exterior influences such as one’s environment. In other words, yes, one’s environment can produce a certain set of unproductive interior states just by being in that environment; but — and this is a big “but” — that same environment can be used to win freedom from the resonance it produces and the accompanying unconscious resistance (to it) that follows.
I say these things to you because sometimes we are unable to change our exterior circumstances just because we wish to — or even see the need to; not everything can be changed as quickly as one wishes for those changes. So if you must live in areas that produce these negative impressions, disquieting mental and emotional states in you, then you can live and prosper inwardly according to your understanding of how these same conditions can create conflict within you. If, on the other hand, you can move into “friendlier” circumstances/conditions, then it would probably be a good idea. One needs all his or her energy for this work of integrating oneself, and when we can live in an environment that doesn’t steal from us our attention just by the nature of its degraded state, then obviously this is better.