100 Days of Practice, 2017: Student Interviews

Most years at Embrace The Moon Taijiquan and Qigong we take up the personal challenge to engage in 100 days of consistent practice. It sure seems like a good idea at the time! This year approximately 70 people signed up to try. Three people succeeded! (I think more did but didn’t record it). I decided to conduct a quick interview with each to plumb their own personal process and attempt to gain some motivational insight!  Here are my questions and their answers! Successful Moon Students are:  1) Lynnette Woerne, with Embrace The Moon for 22 years. 2) Caterina Randolph, with Embrace The Moon for 7 years. 3) Nicholas Griepentrog, with Embrace The Moon 4 years, and another 10 of previous practice in L.A. 

1)    What inspired you to take up the 100 Days?

Lynette: Each year you have suggested this for establishing a home
practice, so after over 20+ years of practicing at the dojo I was inspired
to tell myself now is the time and accepted your suggestion.  

Caterina: I liked the idea of a commitment to my practice for a set period of time. It made it a challenge that I could take up and try to “win”.  Somehow, that was a hook for my competitive Western mind in a way that the open-endedness of a daily practice for a lifetime didn’t have.  By doing it, I found how much I liked having a true daily practice, so I won in more than one way.

Nicholas: It was your specific idea of someone going through the form, one movement per day, for the 100 days.  I wanted to know what would happen and the best way to find out was to do it.

2)    What was the easiest part for you?

Lynnette: Knowing that I could include the parts of the qigong routines
that seemed right for me.  I settled on standing meditation followed by
gathering qi from 8 directions: S,sw,W,nw,N,ne,E,se.  Then including other
movements like pulling the 9-oxtail or tapping, or measuring the stars with
fingers widely spread, or etc-- not always the same to fill out the fifteen

Caterina: The easiest part-not sure. I guess deciding to do it in the first place. I was ready and had a lot of commitment.

Nicholas: The first 60 days or so were pretty easy.  This was Laojia Yilu, which I know well, so it was time set aside to explore.

3)    What were your roadblocks?

Lynnette: Sometimes waiting too late in the day and feeling very tired but my Crystal Bowls Meditation CD helped me through those points.

Caterina: The roadblocks were the old usual ones.  I don’t feel connected to my body today.  I feel tired today. I don’t know what I’m doing and will do it wrong.  I look like a fool. 

Nicholas: The biggest roadblock was my own stubbornness. Things were relatively smooth up to the time of CXX’s workshop.  I’d developed a specific schedule and created a habit of following it.  Spending 5-6 hours a day working on Xinjia Yilu made the idea of 15 minutes of Laojia seem daunting.  Thankfully I came to my senses and realized the only thing forcing me to adhere to that schedule was me.  Every single day in the workshop I’d have already spent 15 minutes working on a particular movement.  I’d met my commitment but not had the sense to see it.

4)    Did you have anything unexpected show up during your 100 days?

Lynnette: Unexpected was how much I truly enjoy practicing in my living room.

Caterina: I learned so many things from the experience it was truly surprising, and that part I didn’t expect. I thought I couldn’t learn by doing things wrong. It was like I was holding a fragile glass sculpture and was afraid I’d drop it and ruin it. What an idiot!  Among the discoveries that showed up was that I actually do understand the principles, and there is no end to the well of my fascination for the process once I start working with it. I also learned that a daily practice helps with leg strength, and a lot of the resistance and weakness in my practice was lack of the ability to stay with the position. I discovered all the places I come up out of the correct posture, all the places I lose focus and intention. I discovered places I was “leaning” inappropriately, and places my stance was clearly too narrow, or too long.  I started noticing where there was disconnect between upper and lower body. As Yogi Berra put it: You can see a lot by just watching.

Nicholas: I went in with an exploratory attitude so I wouldn’t say things were unexpected but there were things that struck me as unusual.  The one that sticks out most is that, within the context of working on a single movement, fajin were the most difficult movements to spend 15 minutes on. 

5)    What did you learn?

Lynnette:  I learned that I can include a 15 minute qigong practice in my days and feel that I definitely benefit from doing so.  Now I welcome those moments rather than thinking of them as a burdensome obligation.    

Caterina: I finally understand what you meant by exploring, or “finding” it. It appeals the scientist in me too, who had the working principle that you can speculate about a question and wonder about it forever and enjoyably, but you don’t truly know the answer until you do the experiment.*     *For things for which you can devise an experiment only, of course.  I find that I am learning to work with qi just fine without ever having come up with a good western theory about what it is exactly.

Nicholas: The key learning for me was leaving the space open to explore movements.  Changes of intention, speed, and focus allowed me to experience a given movement in a variety of ways. 

6)    What was the funniest story about your practice?

Lynnette:  Having my granddaughters with me overnight one day and almost forgetting; then after settled in bed at 11:00 pm with the eleven-year old I said "Oh dear, I haven't done my qigong (I took it seriously that the 100 days needed to be consecutive).  So I got up and she said I'm getting up,too, and she sat on the sofa nodding along while I played the Crystal Bowls CD and moved through the 15 minutes of qigong.

Caterina: Can’t think of anything really humorous.  An observer would have found it a hoot, I’m sure.

Nicholas: The funniest part was seeing the dogs react to it.  Practice would occur as time was available but I’d always have the same music on.  Quickly they recognized that this meant practice time.  All three would get on the couch and two would watch intently while the other napped.  They’d switch roles from day to day but always two watching.  They did this for everything, except for kicks which they seem to dislike. 

7)    What might you share with others about the experience?

Lynnette:  It is amazing how a daily practice can really benefit the
flexibility of one's body.  

Caterina: All of the above.  Just try it!  Practice because there is fun and joy and wisdom there and in you. And levels of connection you didn’t think possible. Between your mind and body. Your spirit and intention. You and your environment. You and the world.

Nicholas: I would encourage everyone to take this up. That said I strongly recommend making the commitment flexible.  Life will happen and we must get our practice where we can.  I got sick during the time frame and there were days where my energy level was just enough to lay on the couch and that was it.  This doesn’t mean I couldn’t practice.  It just meant that I needed to be smart about how to practice.  I used those times to work specifically with intention and visualization.

8)    Other things you might want to say?

Lynnette:  Without Qigong I don't think I would still be alive at 77 years old with a joyful outlook on Life in spite of 8 very stressful final years in my computer programming and systems design career,  a big move from a house I truly loved, deep grief over the death of my husband of 46 years, a hip joint replacement and two knee joint replacements.  It is not just practicing qigong, it is the supportive environment of a very positive teacher and practicing with others.  

Caterina: Think I’ve said it now. Thanks for bringing this precious gift here and opening it up for us.