Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Pay attention!

May I share a question with you, one that was put to me the other day. It's a simple question. What, I was asked, is the purpose of pain? This wasn't something I'd thought about. In my mind pain didn't give rise to conjecture, it gave rise to action.

The person who posed this question was Dr. Symeon Rodger, a scientist and a priest in the Eastern Orthodox Church, "Why," he asked, during a lecture, "does the body experience pain?"
On the face of it, the answer is obvious - the body gives off pain when it is hurt, when it needs attention. Pain, in fact, is the body's mechanism for calling attention to the area in need of help.
But, Dr. Rodgers argued, the pain isn't summoning attention in order for the sufferer to rush to the doctor, knock back a pill, or slap on a plaster. It is seeking attention because that is precisely what the injury needs: it needs the sufferer to pay attention.

And note the choice of words. In this context we don't say 'give' attention, we say, very precisely, 'pay' attention. The choice of word is critical. If we make a gift we don't necessarily expect anything in return. If, on the other hand, we pay for something, we are paying in order to receive. We pay attention to our pain in the knowledge that we will receive something back.

Dr. Rodger demonstrated the power of attention on the body and, trying it out for myself, I was quite startled. Close attention, directed at a particular finger, joint, or what you will (dispassionate attention as distinct from anxiety) can actually be felt in that finger or joint.

What's more, as you move your attention you can 'feel' the movement taking place - either by
tingling, heat or some other indication. And it is this carefully focussed attention that the body needs. It is a healing factor in its own right. Paying attention to our bodies' needs can, in effect, offer a very good return on our investment.

Come to think of it, in a time of economic downturn, paying attention to the body's needs might well be wiser, and more rewarding, than investing it in the money market!