• Lijing Cobb

The law

My son and I spent an hour doing Kundalini Yoga yesterday. Like all 9yo boys he was fidgety on the mat. There were a lot of held postures with breath work, as well as repetitions of the same exercise for 1-2 minutes each, and he often deviated from what he was instructed to do. But every time I looked over in his direction, he held a smile for me, and every time I reached my hand out to him, he had his hand ready for me to hold. Before we started he’d already been complaining about hunger (it was after 8am and he hadn’t eaten anything), but throughout the session his energy level rose and he told me he felt great. We both did. When we finished we thanked each other for the company and time spent together.

I’ve been pretty harsh on my boy lately. We are human beings and that means we are works in progress. He was given certain traits at birth, and so was I, and not all of these traits mesh together perfectly. No matter how much of a breakthrough I think I’ve achieved with him one day, the next days will continue to surprise both of us, and sometimes it feels like we suffer a setback that brings us all the way back to the beginning. A few days ago I drafted an agreement and sat him down to read over it. He negotiated for some terms to be less demanding, and I obliged. Afterwards we started the implementation of these terms right away. So far out of the 4 items on the agreement he’s broken 2 and handling the others as well as he could, and I’m appreciating the difference and potential I see in him.

A month into his sugar and carb restricted diet, my boy is still adhering to my guidance, although not without protests from time to time. In the morning he no longer pours generous portions of cereal for himself or asks to eat chocolate muffins. If I take a little too long to get his breakfast ready he’d come to me, grouchy with hunger, but blind in his trust that I would get him the right things to satiate his hunger and still stay on track. He’s starting to ask that I prepare his lunch instead of taking the provided lunch at school. If there is pizza for dinner he takes one slice instead of three. When the girls and my husband eat desserts he refrains, and I show solidarity with him by not taking any either. A few days ago my husband took the kids to an ice cream place without me, and reportedly my boy only ate a couple of bites and stopped on his own. He would have asked for a large before he started his diet.

My boy wants to change for the better. When I ask him if he’s happy with the changes he’s seen in his body, he always says yes. And I think that’s why he’s willing to stay on this diet, even though he complains sometimes that it’s unfair that he doesn’t get to eat certain things his sisters are allowed to. When I presented with the 4 items on the agreement, he negotiated to have certain terms changed in his favor, but he didn’t reject it outright, because he knew that the status quo was not working, and he was willing to take part of the responsibility to change that.

As adults we don’t really have anyone to set new perimeters for us to change what’s not working. Sometimes we institute a change for ourselves because we sense the need, but soon we abandon that course because it is too hard and no one is policing it except our own conscience. Diets are super hard because, well, excuses are better supplied than resolve. When we sense the need for change, we usually don’t do much of anything to initiate that change, because routines are like analgesic and numb our sense of urgency.

In my youth I was deeply impressed when I learned about the leap from quantitive change to qualitative change. To explain this easily, we can think of us piling up brick after brick over a plank of wood. While the bricks accumulate, it is simply a qualitative change in weight. However, when the plank can no longer endure any more additional weight and breaks in half with the last brick, that becomes a qualitative change. Or say that a perfectly healthy person develops an unhealthy eating habit and keeps gaining weight. While the weight goes up initially as a quantitative change, at one point it triggers a change in the body, which starts to malfunction in all sorts of ways, and that becomes a qualitative change.

All accumulations of quantitative change lead to qualitative change at one point or another. It’s just a matter of time.

If I practice tennis 7 times a week, all those hits will elevate me from a crappy to a mediocre to a great player. If I call myself an idiot 10 times a day, all those repetitions will eventually lead me to behave in idiotic ways to prove myself right. If I think hard on life’s challenges every day and refuse to give up solving the riddles I face on a daily basis, I will become more and more skilled and at home in a world full of pressure and stress. No longer freaked out and frantic, but more composed and sanguine in my outlook for life.

So we are all bricklayers in our own lives. Laying bricks for what? That’s up to us. But trust that brick by brick, that change we work towards will come. It’s the law.

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