Is maze brightness in rats an equivalent of enlightenment in humans?

I thought you might like to read an excerpt from the book I’m reading in a book group. The book is called Life in the Labyrinth, by E.J. Gold, who is in the Gurdjieffian Fourth Way lineage of teaching awareness expansion.

As a child of thirteen and fourteen, I found my bedroom overrun with lab rats, and more or less as an afterthought — I had no other use for them, not being particularly attracted to vivisection and the like — built a few mazes to study rat behavior.

One item stood out clearly in my observations of dozens of rats stumbling, bumping and sniffing their way toward their final reward as they learned to synthesize experiential data through a primitive form of deduction…or didn’t learn, and nearly starved to death.

I discovered, independently of texts on behavioral sciences, something which I later learned was by convention called maze brightness, which could be defined for the moment as “becoming able to find new paths through the maze toward the reward-point through sheer repetition”, from which we could, if we weren’t overly concerned about how far we could quantum leap, deduce that some rats eventually become aware of the general rules of maze construction, of course only on a purely subjective-instinctive nose-and-gut level.

I discovered through this a special learning process which could enable the rat to solve not only one known maze but virtually any maze it may thereafter happen to encounter by accident or design.

I also concluded, probably rightly, that such a rat would, eventually — having blundered its way through a sufficient number of mazes — in spite of itself, begin to dimly recognize the inescapable fact that it is in a maze and that moreover, it cannot — at least by present means — remove itself to parts unknown.

Once this first all-important recognition has been achieved, without which nothing further is possible in any direction except down, it can begin to perceive and analyze its surroundings as they actually are, and not as its unexamined fears and perceptual occlusions have caused it to imagine them to be.

Because the perceptual-emotional will have, for the moment, been resolved, it will no longer exhibit the compulsion to maintain a self-constructed veil of confusion and disorientation.

One would think the thrill of observing that single rat, which out of dozens, suddenly gave indications of having become aware of the maze would soon pall, but au contraire…the excitement of this simple yet magnificent discovery never failed to strike me as anything less than downright apotheotic*, and any behavioral scientist worth his or her weight in potassium nitrate who says anything different is spouting pure scoria*.

A rat achieves maze brightness, and its eyes seem somehow at once both older and younger; general posture and behavior toward the environment and toward itself show radical signs of alteration. It seems less frantic, more self-assured, and noticeably less self-destructive.

At the same time, one can see visible signs of excitement as a new sense of freedom descends overwhelmingly upon it, the same sense of freedom which humans who have discovered what they call “enlightenment” experience.

E.J. Gold is a good storyteller, and I’ve just ordered two more of his books, Practical Work on the Self and The Human Biological Machine As a Transformational Apparatus. The book group I joined has already read them, so I have some catching up to do.

*apotheosis means to exalt a person to the rank of God

*scoria means the scum left after melting metal

Massage, brainwaves, NLP, work, yoga, women in prison, Gurdjieffian book group, trailer, and more

Life is going pretty well. Knock wood, right?

I’m doing well in massage school. Got in some great practice on three people outside of school this past Wednesday, ahead of Thursday’s practical exam. I have a major written test next week and then a week off. It’s hard to believe that I’m about halfway through!

Tomorrow it will be three months since I finished brainwave optimization. I am glad I did it. I feel more centered, my memory is better, and so is my focus. It’s been worth the expense, and I can still go back for individual sessions if I feel the need. It’s been helpful with juggling school/trailer/moving/remodeling/working and so on.

I’m looking forward to doing some gamma wave enhancement when my trainer Gigi Turner at NeuroBeginnings is ready and I have time.

Also, I can have a drink now! You are warned not to drink alcohol during the training and for three months afterward. Kinda makes me wonder what alcohol actually does to the brain. Any drinking I do will be very light — my alcohol tolerance is low.

I did an NLP session with a friend today and picked up a freelance writing/editing job for her website! This is my second recent website writing job. I love doing this for people who have created and are running their small businesses that make the world a better, healthier place, people who are living their passions. I’m looking for more work like that.

I posted my technical writing resume on a couple of weeks ago. I’m looking to work 20 hours a week at most, flex-time and telecommuting preferred. Meanwhile, I’m open to doing freelance writing and editing, as well as more yoga and NLP coaching.

I’d love to teach yoga out of my trailer to individuals or small groups (up to 4 max). I’m putting this out there so if you know anyone in South Austin who’d like a small class with more personal attention, you can refer them to me.

I’m considering teaching a donation-only class on Saturday mornings until the weather gets cold. I plan to check out Searight Park in my neighborhood as a possible location. I have Sun Salutations on my mind!

I’ve been attending a weekly class in Anusara yoga at Castle Hill taught by Brigitte Edery or Liz Belile, both great teachers who stimulate and challenge the mind and body. It’s a natural segue from my Iyengar-based training. Love the attention to awareness.

Next week I’m going with Keith Fail into the state prison in Lockhart to teach some basic NLP to women in prison, as part of Truth Be Told‘s Exploring Creativity program. We’ll teach triple description — first, second, and third position, like first, second, and third person in English class, only applying it to your real life. Perceptual flexibility is a fabulous skill to teach, and I’m looking forward to it.

I’m participating in a book group, reading Life in the Labyrinth, by E.J. Gold. This is my first foray into the Gurdjieffian lineage, not counting my longtime interest in the Enneagram. The group has been meeting for a while, and I’m honored to have been invited. We take turns reading aloud, covering a chapter a week, and enjoying some stimulating discussion.

I’ve signed up for a one-day workshop at Lauterstein-Conway later this month on cranio-sacral massage. I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I received CST every month for 2-3 years from Nina Davis. It is a fascinating branch on the massage family tree.

Week after next, I’m trading two hours of Swedish massage, with all the extras, for a two-hour lomi lomi (Hawaiian style) massage with James Moore. Really looking forward to that! I haven’t had a lomi lomi massage yet but have read about the Hawaiian healers who have kept this art alive.

Last, the trailer. I’m working on finding the best weatherstripping for the aluminum jalousie windows — something that will last that I can buy in bulk for the 48 windows, which have had the old, melted weatherstripping painstakingly removed.

Then, I hope to replace the nonworking sliding glass doors at the entry with something that works and build an entry deck. I’ve been using the back door to come and go.

Oh, and I must share this! August 2011 was the hottest month in the hottest year on record in Austin. It was also my first full month of having AC in the trailer. Friends have been telling me about their outrageous electric bills — as much as $400.

My AC ran nearly all day every day in August. I worried about my bill being outrageous.

The August bill was $100. Whew! Jon Esquivel at Austin Star Services did a good job getting a good unit in this trailer. For that I am grateful.

Other tasks coming up include plumbing and wiring my shed for a washer and dryer, getting some good window coverings and installing them, and planting more trees and a fall garden with some edible landscaping.

I am really, really loving my life now and the direction it’s going. It’s scary to make a big change in direction like I did, and it is working out well. Knock wood!