A Knowing Gaze

Trying to describe anything about an ayahuasca ceremony to someone that hasn’t experienced one for themselves is difficult indeed. It is like trying to feel the texture of water …. it requires a completely new sense.

I have had a wide range of experiences in ceremony: some of them were very difficult while others were magical. Yet all were transformative. This is the story of one of the magical evenings.

Ceremony takes place in a darkened room. But that darkness is no competition for the blackness that can be experienced while in vision. This particular evening I was drawn in to a mysterious blackness. It felt as if there was a never-ending depth and an utter emptiness, featureless, no life.

Out of this inky blackness, I began to see very small, irregular and seemingly unrelated points of light. They were separate but generally collected close to the centre of the imaginary frame of view. I recall that my eyes were darting back and forth between these spots, trying to make some sense of what was happening. I remember leaning forward to try and get a better view. I sensed movement but then realized that they were growing in size ever so slowly, even changing shape in minute ways. It was like a puzzle.

New locations of this light arrived in a similar fashion. The original spots mutated slightly in size, shape and texture, but the contrast was extreme, either black or white …. no gradations, no colours. The rate of change was frustratingly slow, yet I was transfixed. I began to understand that I was seeing reflected light and that there was something in front of me and it was moving …. towards me. I pulled back, startled, aware now that there was something in here with me.

As new light emerged from the void, my eyes flitting around, my breathe more ragged, I drew back even further. My eyes grew wide with amazement as the fragments begin to reveal the emergence of the face of a monstrous gorilla. Only its face, huge and filling my entire field of view, maybe 18″ away, with the most amazingly moist and knowing eyes that can be imagined. It was as if the blackness of the gorilla emerged into the light only enough for the puzzle to be known but not completed. There was not one excess piece of detail, just the absolute barest of minimum interaction between this creature and the light.

These eyes were unblinking, looking directly into mine, so much so that even I couldn’t blink. There was a “knowing” there and as we held each other’s gaze, I understood that I was being shown that to know is to look. That’s it. Be present and open myself to what is in front of me. Seeing really isn’t that difficult if I would just fully engage. Don’t blink. Don’t look away. Don’t make excuses.  There is no right and wrong. Judgement is just another alibi to not show up on my own behalf.

Things don’t need to be explained, dissected, excused. They need to be accepted.

We held each other’s eyes for what felt like a very long time. The gorilla made no movements, no gestures, yet it was so purposeful. At some point, the gorilla ever so slowly began to recede to the blackness, never once looking away. As the many points of light disappeared, I gazed directly into it’s eyes. Small irregular shapes of light that shone from the wet pools of knowledge were the last features I saw.

I felt so grounded and solid that evening. Telling the story again, here, reinforces the lesson. Be fully present. Drop all the judgment. No excuses. It is up to me to accept all that is.


6 responses to “A Knowing Gaze

  • zastre

    “There is in God (some say) / A deep but dazzling darkness.” (From the last stanza of Henry Vaughan’s “The Night”).


  • bishoprex

    Your insight has and will continue to serve you well as you grow in the realizations of acceptance of what is. In 2010 I made my first breakthrough with a therapist I was working with at the time. She would talk to me at length about “The Knowing Gaze” and I recall experiencing a similar event happening to me in her unlit/windowless office.I remember light coming out of nowhere, but mine was only 1 pinpoint. It danced around all over the room it seemed as though it was sparring with me, enticing me to literally start fighting with it. Well, it happend so fast I wasn’t aware it had occurred but there in that light was the face of the worst tormentor/terrorist I had experienced as a very little boy. All the while, Jamie kept talking to me, asking what I was seeing and what I was feeling. At first it was unadulterated FEAR. I was frozen in place but felt as though there was no chair under me and if I got up to stand, I would fall into the blackness where Jimmy J. could get ahold of me and continue with the same or worse torture he had put me through for years when I was little. I remember a line from the Wizard Of Oz. Glenda, the good witch tells the wicked witch of the East – “be gone, you have no power here” so I told my tormentor as loud as I could the following: “Being with Jamie my therapist has taught me to confront you and many others that beat and raped and tortured and tormented and filled me with such fear, I thought members of my family were in danger”. I have learned to remember fully, names, places, smells, the weather that day and step by step what happened” and at the end of this exercise, I was able to say outloud for the first time in 59 years – “be gone from my life, you are now powerless to have any further effect on me and what I do in life”.
    This exercise, which we have repeated over many times, now with a different therapist, has just about released me from the power of the traumatic events of my childhood, that continued on into grammar and high school and into my service in the U.S. Navy. I can’t say yet I am fully liberated. We have another 6 months of work I’m told before I can do that but 5 years of twice weekly sessions with two different therapists, one my PTSD helper, has given me a new outlook on those events and a new way of mentally and emotionally dealing with them. One exercise I started on August 1st was to write letters to all the perps of torture and forgive them. Then for the entire month of August, I am to read these letters once in the morning and once before bed. What a great feeling of release that is happening. I too feel adrift in a tentative peace (in my head) that seems to intensify as each day of reading releases me from the power they held over me for close to 60 years. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your story “A Knowing Gaze” and although may be different, one thing I know happened to me. My life was forever changed and f’d up from the 1st event and I can only imagine how my life would have been different had these horrible experiences never occurred.
    Sincerely, Rex Bishop, Santa Rosa, CA, U.S. Navy Veteran/Viet Nam Veteran


    • photosentinel1953

      Well, I am knocked out by your words here. That you would reply as you have is a gift as well. I am struck by your tenacity to keep up the efforts to heal. Without that intensity it is unlikely that you would have reached the state you are in. Personally I have surprised myself by having these same characteristics. I didn’t know I could be so tenacious, but once I had a hint of the truth, I stuck with it.
      Thanks for sharing.



    • photosentinel1953

      Rex, not sure if my previous message got through. Our mutual friend in Germany is not doing well at all, I see you have replied to him as well. Are you up for a phone call? I am on the west coast as well, in British Columbia.


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