Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Who's Your "Cato"?

Last week, a friend of mine forwarded me the following blurb from Heart Advice: Weekly Quotes from Pema Chodron, (a popular American Buddhist teacher and writer):
Those who give us a hard time, who are difficult to be around or who constantly blow our cover, are the very ones who show us where we we’re stuck. The great meditation master Atisha always traveled with his belligerent Bengali tea-boy because it kept him honest. Without his ill-tempered servant to test him, he might have been able to deceive himself about his degree of equanimity. Troublemakers up the ante: if we can practice patience with them, we can practice it with anyone. 
I think we can all relate to this, right? It certainly brought to mind several people I've known in my life, but what amused me most about this quote was its striking resemblance to the original Pink Panther movie series, with Peter Sellers. Do you remember the bumbling Inspector Clouseau and his infuriating servant, Cato, whose job it was to attack the inspector, suddenly and when least expected? Apparently Clouseau very much wanted to stay on his toes, and didn't mind how frequently his apartment suffered total destruction.

Even though I've never been a big fan of slapstick comedy, I find Cato and Clouseau's antics hilarious for the very reason that I find Pema's quote so profound. It's because, in the grand scheme of our lessons and contracts here on earth, we choose a few trusted, beloved soul friends (even soul mates) to play the fly in the ointment of our lives, and there's something very rich about that.

Our "Cato" might be a parent, a spouse, a child, a friend, a co-worker, or even a full-fledged enemy, but one thing's for sure: they keep us from falling into lazy contentment. Their presence forces us to learn, grow, and even heal from whatever we need to heal from.

The lesson might relate to self-sufficiency, trust, forgiveness, or anything else that's up for your soul's growth, but wrestling with this person provides the perfect situation for that learning, which is why the two of you planned it that way before you came into this life.

If you don't believe me, ask yourself this question about a Cato from your past: "What quality do I now possess because of being challenged by this person?" If you're very honest, you'll see that he or she helped you develop in some important way. Your experience with this person made you stronger, more patient, more compassionate, more forgiving, or more focused than you would have been without them. Maybe you developed healthy boundaries because he or she invaded yours.

It's easy to see your Cato as the problem that stands between you and peace or happiness, but think again. It is through the lessons they teach that you earn your peace of mind. Remember, "If it's in the way, it is the way."