When the body is disturbed in its balance, through illness, injury, or other causes, it causes signals to be sent through the nervous system to the brain, broadcasting the perception we perceive as pain. Some people never experience pain, however, due to either a failure of the nervous pathway, or some blocking mechanism within the awareness. The inability to experience pain, although rare, can be seriously life-threatening, as pain, as one of its functions, is intended to send a warning to the individual to take some kind of corrective action to preserve the integrity of the body and the life-force. Some individuals believe that it would be a blessing not to be able to experience pain, but those with such a constitution are at serious risk. Pain serves a real purpose in the economy of nature!
At the same time, focus on pain can also be, not only a serious distraction for the being, but also can increase the experience and intensity of the pain. Pain continues until the situation is fully resolved, and in some cases, this can take a considerable time. Western medicine has developed a scale for describing pain on a 1-10 level, in an attempt to understand the subjective experience of the pain by the individual they are treating. They use both a numeric scale and what they call the “Wong-Baker FACES pain rating scale.” Depending on the intensity and the acute or chronic nature of the pain, a different approach, generally reliant on pain medications, will be recommended. One way or the other, the individual must understand how to deal with pain.
Some people resort to chemical substances that are known to block the experience of pain, through one pathway or another. Some numb the pain receptors at the site of the pain; some block the nervous channels that transport the pain signals, and some block the receptors in the brain that receive and decode these signals as pain. Some pain medication has a secondary effect of reducing the inflammatory response at the site of a wound or injury, which naturally reduces the pain signals as well. Opioid pain medications are extremely powerful and not only block the pain but also induce lethargy, a dreamy-state of reduced general awareness and are highly addictive as people who take them report being cushioned in a pain-free state of awareness not worried about events in the world, but absorbed in an inner reality of seemingly peaceful rest, until such time as the drug wears off! One of the issues with opioid use is that the experience creates both a psychological and a physical craving, and thus, can lead to a fixation on the drug use that goes beyond the initial pain management.
There are other ways, without use of medicines, by which pain can be either reduced or eliminated. The more we remain fixated and focused on the body and its reactions, the more we will be subjected to the experience of its pain. As with everything else, the consciousness has the role, and the ability, to tune itself to one vibrational level or another. It is thus possible to shift the focus away from the body to the higher levels of the being. This happens naturally when someone is absorbed in listening to music, or concentrating on some area of deep interest, whether a project, or a hobby or some intellectual pursuit, or in the case of a spiritual seeker, through a refocusing of the awareness toward the Divine Reality.
There are actually several benefits to shifting the awareness away from the pain of the body. First, it frees the individual from the constant experience of the pain, once initial notice and corrective action, as possible, has been taken. Second, it allows the body to undertake its automatic healing actions without undue interference from the mind which may not fully understand the complex mechanisms involved in healing the situation, and thus, may actually undertake actions which set back the healing process.
The Mother writes: “You may have been told that certain bodily complaints will give you a great deal of pain. Things like that are often said. You then make a formation of fear and keep expecting the pain. And the pain comes even when it need not.” … But in case it is there after all, I can tell you one thing. If the consciousness is turned upward, the pain vanishes. If it is turned downward, the pain is felt and even increases. When one experiments with the upward and the downward turnings, one sees that the bodily complaint as such has nothing to do with the pain. The body may suffer very much or not at all, although its condition is exactly the same. It is the turn of the consciousness that makes all the difference.”
“I say ‘turned upward’ because to turn towards the Divine is the best method, but what can be said in general is that if the consciousness is turned away from the pain to one’s work or anything that interests one, the pain ceases. … And not only the pain but whatever damage there may be in an organ is set right much more easily when the consciousness is taken away from the trouble and one is open to the Divine. There is the Sat aspect of the Divine — the pure supreme Existence above or beyond or behind the cosmos. If you can keep in contact with it, all physical complaints can be removed.”
Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of the Body and Physical Consciousness, Preoccupation with Illness, pp. 91-93