It's 3:15 AM when one of the dog barks and wakes me up.
Oh great, I think. Here we go again - another middle of the night wake-up when I can't get back to sleep.
But then something happens. As I lie in bed surrounded by dogs and with Jim snoring gently next to me, instead of fighting to get back to sleep, I realize I am in a warm cocoon of love - surrounded in that moment only by people and creatures I love who love me. There are worse places to be at 3:15 AM, even when you aren't asleep.
I allow that love, and I truly feel it there so early in the morning. I float in it, and it is peaceful, warm, and beautiful. My early wake up, then, wasn't an annoyance at all. It was an invitation to experience moments of pure bliss and of the joy of being.
On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, I became aware of severe shoulder pain whenever I moved my arm into a certain position. It was the kind of pain that catches you quickly and takes your breath away, and it made me careful in the way I moved my arm so as not to invoke the pain.
Although the pain was still there yesterday morning, I went to my Nia class, figuring I could just be a one-armed dancer for the day. When I got there, however, my painful shoulder invited me to explore movement and seek the pleasure. And so,= throughout class, I gently moved and found the places where my shoulder was not only not in pain, but it actually felt good. By the end of class, my shoulder was pain-free, and I could move it in every direction freely, joyfully, and comfortably.
We all have these things that come up in our lives. Some are inconveniences. Some are downright painful. Some are illnesses that linger. Some are relationships that break, people who are mean, bills that are unexpected and difficult to pay, losses of people we love, weather that keeps us from doing what we think we truly want to do, appearance issues that keep us from loving our bodies...the list goes on and on.
But what if these things aren't there to make life more difficult and painful? What if they exist and come into our lives as invitations to grow, explore, be, and immerse ourselves more fully in the beauty and joy of life?
What if that winter storm that keeps you trapped in the house without electricity is really an invitation to snuggle up with loved ones without distraction?
What if that injury or illness is an invitation to slow down, pay attention, and partner with your body in ways that bring about more pleasure and fulfillment, that help you to nourish and nurture yourself, and that allow you to grow in spirit?
What if that horribly mean person is really just an invitation to experience yourself as one who forgives and loves unconditionally?
What if that 3 AM wake-up from the crying baby, child with a nightmare, or noisy pet is an invitation to experience a moment of pure peace and love with the child or pet when there are no other distractions?
What if that world leader who so terrifies you is really offering an invitation to define who you are and what you stand for? Or offering an invitation to find ways to bring more light to the planet?
What if that abusive person from your past is actually inviting you to overcome hardship and live in the light?
What if that environmental or weather disaster is an invitation to tread more lightly on the Earth and truly connect to a love of the planet?
What if the extra weight on your butt and around your middle is there as an invitation to love yourself unconditionally and treat yourself more kindly?
The shadows are full of invitations. They exist all around you in every second of every day. They are there, these invitations, in the appropriateness of all things, and it is often in the hardships where the greatest invitations lie. The universe is inviting you to compassionate action, greater peace, more joy, unconditional love, partnership with the planet and your body, deeper connection and faith, and so much more, if only you'll allow it. Are you listening?