I thought it was time I wrote something about Tai Chi (quick look on Google to see how to spell it and discover the NHS is promoting it for the over 65’s – not quite there yet) because I have gone to six classes now and it seems like a good time to review it. It then occurred to me that I have various longer term projects on the go so it is probably a healthy mental choice to look at all of them, hopefully with the view of celebrating.

So what projects do I have ongoing? I don’t tend to think of my activities as projects so I am not sure what to include. If Tai Chi counts then I guess any form of sport should be included so that would be swimming, cycling and running. Then there would also be the things I’ve been doing to strengthen my right leg. There are mental activities too so that would include doing online courses, writing this blog, my photography, and drawing. Where does travelling come in? It is about self-improvement and creating new experiences but primarily it is physically going to another place and getting out of the house. One thing I am going to exclude is work projects even though they may crop up in my writing, the backup server being the current example. What about the groups I belong to? The Random Recorder group, the writing support and the book group I belong to. I guess even TV watching could be counted as a long-term project in my case. Since I have finished today’s bit of gardening (fifth day in a row) that would also seem to fit the bill.

I am wondering if the common theme here is improvement? What am I improving though, and how do they fit in with my values? Which is where I struggle to remember my top three values. I can remember connecting and appreciation but what is the third? A quick look in the archive reveals it is peace. I am guessing that perhaps peace is being neglected somewhat if I can’t remember it.

Okay I will go in reverse order. Gardening is physical exercise on one hand but also quite a meditative experience (I am weeding a lot at the moment paying for past neglect) and it also struck me this afternoon that getting one’s hands dirty means I am paying much more attention to what is happening in my garden, I am noticing changes and I am more in touch with the weather and how to fit some gardening into my life. So from a values point of view I do think it fits. I am appreciating my garden more and connecting with its changes I suppose, this also enables me to see a better garden ahead and gives me time to see how I could change things. This would seem to lead to a greater peace of mind about the garden. Wow!

Generally when I think about connecting I am thinking about people and so being in groups that do things with is definitely connecting. I think though that I probably could do with some more appreciation on this front. The book group probably gets the most appreciation because I probably would be reading much without it and certainly I would never come across some of the books we choose otherwise. I like the writer’s group because it represents a different side of me which I am still relatively newly examining.

I am not so sure I am getting much out of small recorder group playing so I think that is why I tend to lack appreciation for it. The introduction of newer members who are less flexible on what instruments they play and are not able to play intermediate level music (though I am not sure I know what that is) can be trying at times. I wonder if we need to have some homework. I am not sure if I can use peaceful to any of my groups, I guess they are all a bit too much in my face for that. What would peaceful look like though? Strangely enough I think the recorder group has the best chance for a peaceful experience.

Travelling in itself isn’t necessarily peaceful for me either unless that is I am under my own steam but I do think it is about connecting with my culture and the people I go to see. Looking into the history of the place and the art it holds does give me greater appreciation for the wider world and the people in the past too. I haven’t travelled in the way I expected though. I thought I would do day trips around Scotland to start with so Malta was a surprise though it worked out really well. I guess travelling requires a bit more planning which is not my forte generally though I have trips for May, June and July in the diary so that’s not doing too bad really.

I am in theory doing two courses at the moment: night-time photography and fluid dynamics, though both have come to a halt in reality. I think this is about commitment really so I need to set aside time to work through the courses and do the practical exercises. I guess it is early days to commit to anything but I don’t see why I can’t pencil in some possibilities. Perhaps part of the problem is that these don’t connect with other people so I suspect I need to work out ways to do that (WordPress should be good for photography though). I think I also need to work on appreciation and peace with these courses too.

My drawing and photography have both taken a back burner in recent months. My blog though is very much alive because this is my one hundred and ninety-ninth post, which is pretty amazing to me. This blog very much allows me to connect, appreciate and find peace though I sometimes crave a bit more feedback (hmm seems like a topic for post 200 there). The blog also gives me a reason to take photos which on the whole documents the changing seasons of the place where I live. I would like to do some more drawing and thought that tying that in with travelling would help but I feel that isn’t enough at the moment so room for improvement there.

The physical exercising in general does connect with other people. Swimming is doing something with my daughter and renewing contacts in the club, cycling is socialising with my friends particularly over coffee and cake, and Tai Chi is sharing an activity with my wife as well as making new friends. Exercise seems to give me a sense of freedom and an appreciation of my body which in turn is a celebration of the success of my medical care. I also get a real sense of peace through these activities which the freedom sense highlights, an escape from the pressures of life. Running has fizzled out though (solo activity refrain?) but I have strengthening my right leg into daily life by the occasional squat when brushing my teeth and standing on that one leg when doing things like cooking, washing up, or making a cup of tea. What about the values though? Hmm.

I think the complexity of Tai Chi together with its slowness and dance like quality really hits the spot on peacefulness. It can feel frustratingly slow in progress but I think that really highlights why it is good for me to do. I completely loose sense of time when I do Tai Chi and I love the way I am much more in tune of my balance and the need to be grounded. I think it also appeals to the boy in me that still loves Kung Fu movies and I now appreciate the repetitive nature of practising for the moves to flow well (haven’t done the wipe-on wipe-off exercise though).

So not so much a review of Tai Chi then but more generally a look at my life. There is a part of me that feels embarrassed to write about my successes, it is not how I was brought up which says I am being boastful and this was deemed as wrong. With two-thirds of my average life behind me though I think it is more important to boost myself occasionally than continuously put myself down. Is it readable? Whether it is boring though or not I will leave up to you.