Grief is rich territory for growth. We all experience loss in different ways at different times. Right now I feel withered and bare. But I also feel the sun. I hear these words from Galway Kinnell: “Sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness, to put a hand on the brow of the flower, and retell it in words and in touch, it is lovely.” Sometimes it’s necessary for me to place my hand on my own brow—on my own heart—and send blessings inward. This is the practice of loving-kindness.
Loving-kindness is open and condition-free. It's also engaged. We don't deny that life is difficult; we meet ourselves there with kindness. Instead of "I'm fine, my grief is over," I move toward my tender places. Instead of "I'll love myself after I finish the to-do list," I open my heart right now. It's a radical shift. And it's a life-changing shift. If I stay with loving-kindness practice, my heart softens and opens. From this place, I give more to the world.
The traditional teachings move outward in widening circles: ourselves, a beloved, a friend, a stranger, a difficult person, all people everywhere. It's comfortable to start with everyone—to wish the world well—but if we don't send love inward, we're disconnected. My experience is this: when I offer myself loving-kindness, I offer it easily to others. If I send blessings inward (may I be safe, happy, and free), my circle of love widens.
With any meditation practice, be honest yet gentle; persistent yet patient. There's no way to get this wrong. Just be with whatever arises: