By Linda Oshins
The many, many people who knew, loved and were helped through troubled times by Katherine Dufrane have been thinking about her and doing various things to honor her memory since she died a few weeks ago. I place a lighted candle and stick of incense beside a fresh flower, sit down and ask for the lessons she taught me to come to mind, and for me to embody them. This is a way of remembering her. One of the central, critical lessons she taught me was to question openly, letting the answer come to me, rather than trying to figure out the answer, usually by rejecting some aspect of myself or another person.
She was the first to introduce me to the idea of non-doer-ship. Non-doer-ship includes staying clearly within another’s process without co-opting it by introducing your own history into the discussion (for example, “My mother has died, too”); or trying to “fix” the other person’s problem for them (advice giving); or simply shying away from another’s anguished emotional or mental state. It sounds simple, but is really difficult to do. She taught us to be with someone else by asking questions that elicit a metaphorical narrative and experience in them during a Reiki session. Or we could use this same process on ourselves.
Katherine said the essential question is “What is it like?” This is a very open-ended question without any hint of judgment—an invitation to open any door. In our healing group, this was an invitation to locate a sensation in the body and explore it. For example, if I was fearful I would find the sensation of fear in the body and go from there. In exploring a physical sensation, I got to know it and develop a metaphor or narrative that brought it to life. I could look squarely at it and let thoughts, images and memories freely flow until fear was familiar. If I needed a framework to begin my exploration she might ask, “Does it have a shape? A texture? Is it inside you our outside you or both?”
In terms of working with the developing metaphor, she would ask, “When it’s like that… is there anything more about it? When it’s like that…is there anything else for me to know about this?” One of the most comforting things she would say during a session is, “Take all the time you need.” She said this allows time for the shifts in a person’s perception and reality to happen at the cellular level.
Many people have taught me, in different “listening” systems and healing techniques, to repeat a person’s words to them in order for them to hear what they have just said clearly and to let them know that I have heard them clearly too. Katherine called this “blessing the process,” using a person’s own words to create the next question. “When it’s like this (repeating person’s words here)… is there anything else?”
This type of language is the deepest kind of support, a deep respect and reverence for a person as they are in this moment and their own process. It is not a matter of semantics but of the deepest truth.
These are her principles for asking questions of someone else or of yourself—
· Clear all judgments out of a question
· Use open-ended questions that say exactly what you want to know
· No yes-or-no questions or questions where the answer is implied
· Make sure the question respects what is; it can allow for change but does not require it
· The question should bring loving awareness to what is true now
· Allow words to rearrange themselves so that the question feels true to the questioner
· Choose deep issues that seem unknowable
· Include the phrase, “what am I ready to know about…” to permit conscious boundaries; there is a difference between wanting to know and being ready to know or see
· Honor fear; force nothing
· Find the question that has the most juice or energy around it
For years we met to give Reiki to each other and receive it in turn, querying our unconscious, seeming to tap into a pool of wisdom beyond the workings of our limited minds—a place where Katherine was at home. We would take a question vital to one of us or to the group as a whole and spend time with it. We understood that the juice was in the question, not the answer, and that the trip was much more exciting than the destination. Finally, that there was no destination. We would never “understand”. That released us from being right or wrong and left us squarely in the mystery of life and death, just asking questions. What a gift!