June 24, 2013

How Your Geography Reveals Your Spirit. ~ Judy Petersen, Ph.D.

When you think about geography, how often do you consider its effects on a personal level—on your mind, body and spirit?

I grew up on a Wisconsin farm and worked in the house, yard, barn and fields. In short, I didn’t sit in front of the TV before and after school or during summer vacations. And I hated sitting still in a neat little row in grade school.

High school and college were wonderful, because I could move among rooms and buildings. I didn’t know why until I landed a teaching job that required presence in one building from 8 a.m.—4:30 p.m. Within a month, I sensed something wasn’t quite right: the confinement crushed my spirit.

That’s when the first light bulb popped, so I went to grad school to ensure that the next job would require movement among buildings.

All was well until many years later, when the next splendid revelation hit me.

I was driving on a dark forest-lined freeway between Stockholm and Uppsala, Sweden. Suddenly, flat golden wheat fields surrounded me, and Uppsala’s stunning silhouette waved to me from a distance.

Seeing the fields triggered a huge involuntary sigh—totally unexpected—yet mentally and physically pleasant. After that incident, I gradually gained more insight into why it happened.

And I’ve become even more aware of ways in which geography shapes my personality and meets my mental and physical needs.

For example, when the sigh occurred, I lived on an island near Stockholm. Our house is three flights up from the street on a rocky, thickly wooded lot (we need no curtains). The setting is exquisite, but it doesn’t give me the buzz that I get from being surrounded by the endless wheat, hay and corn fields of my youth.

After 30 years of living in the land of milk and honey (Sweden), I still feel exhilarated when I look out the window of a puddle jumper as it flies over the land of beer and money (Wisconsin’s Fox Valley).

I’m like a kid at Christmas, as each recognizable landmark reveals itself.

And the eight-hour trans-Atlantic flight? Totally forgotten due to new-found energy and an extremely good mood.

How do I know I’m not alone when it comes to geography-induced sensations? Well, every time we’re in Wisconsin, my main squeeze whines about it, “Wisconsin is too flat,” he says. So I would never dream of suggesting a vacation in southern Sweden or Denmark—mountains and forests turn his crank.

Since summer is a time for relaxation and exploration, I challenge you to contemplate ways in which geography has had an effect on your mind, body and spirit. Use that knowledge to plan your next vacation, job or relocation.

Author’s note: Throughout history, geography has influenced positioning of villages, cities and all sorts of borders (i.e., state, national, and international). Geography has triggered wars and has cultivated cultures, which partly explains why the study of ‘geography’ is split into two disciplines: physical and human.


Judy Petersen, Ph.D., writes, edits and translates health and medical research documents and teaches Pilates, qigong, ChiBall, yoga and many other bodywork courses. Follow and learn more about Judy on Twitter.



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Assistant Ed: Paula Carrasquillo/Ed: Bryonie Wise

{Photo: via Maggie on Pinterest}

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