By Rev. Lori Ethridge
Minister to Senior Adults
I often listen to National Public Radio (NPR). One of the segments I most enjoy is entitled “The Hidden Brain.” NPR science correspondent, Shankar Vedantam, is forever sharing interesting scientific research on the brain, and how it shapes our world. His mission is to make us more mindful of the vital integration between our intentions and our actions with the hope that by becoming more self-aware, we can act justly in society. In the latest episode of the broadcast he addressed the health implications of dancing. This topic quickly got my attention, as I am a big fan of dancing! Evidently the research shows that moving in synchrony with others increases a human being’s threshold for dealing with pain. Mr. Vedantam went on to describe the experiment; one group of people was taught a series of dance steps while a control group was taught nothing. Then, both groups were delivered music through headphones, and were asked to dance while blindfolded. After the dance, the individuals in both groups were introduced to a series of increasingly intense electric shocks. Those who had learned the dance steps, and moved as a choreographed group, tolerated a greater degree of pain than the control group who had not learned the dance steps.
This study was fascinating to me, however, not necessarily because of dancing, but because of the benefits of moving together as a group. Schools of fish dart as one collective body beneath the ocean. Anyone practicing Tai Chi in an urban park does the same on firm ground. We do it every Sunday in corporate worship. We know when to stand and when to sit, not because we have an asterisks in the bulletin, but because we have learned to move as a group. Yes, we have verbal and musical cues, but we still move as a collective body; we do so when we partake in Holy
Communion as well. Who knew that such synchronized movements might help us in dealing with pain? Don’t miss out…see you in church this Sunday for another brand of pain reliever!