Another aspect of loving-kindness that I emphasise is the importance of feeling grateful. I think we take this very important spiritual quality for granted. When I was in Bodhgaya, the place where the Buddha is said to have become enlightened, I was reflecting on what is known about what the Buddha did after he had attained enlightenment.
One of the things which is recorded is that he contemplated for seven long days the Bodhi tree which had given him shelter. Without closing his eyes to sleep, he stayed looking at the tree, showing his gratitude. Often we take the good fortune we have for granted. We take for granted that we have eyes to see, ears to hear and food to eat.
When this was mentioned in Nilambe, the meditation centre where I live, there was a nun from Thailand who made a very interesting point. She said that not only should we feel grateful for the positive things, but we should also feel grateful for the challenges, for the opportunities in life to work with ourselves. So for instance, when we get angry we can feel grateful that we have an opportunity to study anger.
Sometimes when we have physical pain we start hating the pain and the body, but it is possible instead to feel grateful. We can make it an object of our meditation. In this way we learn to be grateful for positive things, the blessings we have; and we can also be grateful for the difficult situations we face, because they can be very valuable learning experiences.