Could Loving-kindness Meditation Put an End to Racial Bias

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The world has evolved. Humankind has made so much progress. And yet, racism continues to exist, bringing oppression, and worse, violence, to people of a certain race.

Could there be an end to racial bias?

Yes, according to researchers at the University of Sussex in England. They found that just seven minutes of Loving-Kindness Meditation (LKM) aimed at a specific member of a particular race (in this study, a black individual) was enough to diminish racial discrimination against that particular race. But it’s worth mentioning that there was no significant decline in racial prejudice against other groups.

The study recruited 71 white, non-meditating individuals who were provided with a photo of a gender-matched black person. They were given either taped LKM instructions or instruction directives to view the images and take note of certain facial features. The duration of both situations was seven minutes.

The subjects gave positive and negative words to the photos containing either their face or of another racial group, and their reaction times were measured using the Implicit Association Test.

What is LKM?

Originally named metta bhavana (love + cultivation), this Buddhist practice is aimed at cultivating love for ourselves and for others. Through regular sessions, we learn to be more kind, patient, accepting and compassionate.

How to Get Started

The most common form of LKM involves five stages and lasts for approximately five minutes for novices.

  1. The first stage involves stimulating love for yourself. You can do this by uttering life-affirming phrases such as “may I be healthy and content,” or imaging an image like a bright star engulfing your body. Concentrate on feelings of tranquillity, then let it grow into feelings of confidence, and then let it develop into love inside your heart.
  2. For the second stage, bring a visual of a good friend into your mind and enumerate their good qualities. Encourage your connection with your friend to develop by using a phrase or an image as well.
  3. Think of a person whom you have “neutral” feelings for, someone you don’t particularly like or dislike. Contemplate on their mercy and compassion and add them in your feeling of self-love.
  4. Think of a person you don’t like. Keep away your feelings of hatred and instead think of them in a good light and give your metta to them too.
  5. In the last stage, think of the four previous persons together – yourself, your friend, the person you have neutral feelings for, and your enemy. Spread your feelings further to include the people in your community, in your city or town, your country or even across the world. Imagine sending them a wave of loving-kindness from you to them.

The study suggests that some forms of meditation are much more than feeling good, and may be effective in promoting inter-group harmony. Perhaps, for others this is enough motivation to get into meditation seriously to significantly improve their personal happiness as well as compassion for other people.


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