Sunday, May 5, 2013

Your Own Personal Cato

In the world of "ME" everyone is a source of either pleasure or pain. Think of the people you like and want to spend time with and those you don't. There are also those with whom we have no regard, one way or the other, but that would likely change were you to begin spending time with them. Yet curiously, despite our primal instinct to move toward pleasure and away from pain, we do not always do so--especially in establishing and maintaining relationships. These relationships, often a seemingly endless source of pleasure and pain, offer a wonderful opportunity to practice mindfulness.

In the classic "Pink Panther" films, Peter Sellers played Inspector Clouesau who would keep his instincts razor sharp by employing Cato, who would jump out and attack him when he returned home each day. In many ways, those closest to us can resemble an emotional Cato. When we least expect it, they surprise us with some statement or action that disappoints, angers, and frustrates us. These moments offers us two paths--the path of conditioned reactivity and the path of mindful responsiveness. Which one we take is up to us--not them.

Importantly, Inspector Clouseau knew to be on guard. Often we forget. Notwithstanding that the tactics we are exposed to repeat themselves again and again, we can become lost in reactivity each time. But each time also presents yet another opportunity to practice mindfulness and to grow. It is never too late; the moment is always here.

Equally important is the recognition that our emotional Catos are not trying to actually hurt us. They are doing the best they can; often they too are suffering. But because we ourselves are caught in our own conditioned patterns, and because their actions can trigger our deepest stuff (which may be why we chose to be with them in the first place), the challenging moments can seem endless.

So, the next time someone you care deeply about does something that causes you to feel agitated, rather than playing out the same drama (familiar thought it may be), appreciate the opportunity that awaits, and bring a measure of mindfulness (your personal practice) into the moment--just a wee bit more than otherwise might arise.

Here is a link to a scene from the Pink Panther.

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