Racism is alive and well in the world today. Even in the U.S., where there was a significant cultural revolution with a successful Civil Rights movement, we still struggle with racial prejudice and divides. Now, there is a backlash against Muslim people throughout significant portions of this country.

centeryourseflmeditation Perhaps future generations will enact cultural movements similar to the ones in the late 1960s, but at this point it is difficult to see how or when the world will change for good.

In the meantime, there has been research into the role of meditation in racial prejudice. In the study, which was published in Motivation and Emotion, a Buddhist meditation called the “loving kindness meditation” (LKM) was explored by researchers form the University of Sussex, U.K.

This meditation devotes attention to positive attitude changes that occur with “loving acceptance.” It is meant to trump negative thinking in people, and turn them around to embrace the positivity in their lives. LKM was shown to improve a person’s empathy factors, see the good qualities in others, and help them stay composed and calm.

“It is a fact of life that many people are troubled by difficult emotional states in the pressured societies we live in but do little in terms of developing skills to deal with them,” states Buddhanet.

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“Yet even when the mind goes sour it is within most people’s capacity to arouse positive feelings to sweeten it.

Loving kindness is a meditation practice taught by the Buddha to develop the mental habit of selfless or altruistic love. In the Dhammapada can be found the saying: ‘Hatred cannot coexist with loving kindness, and dissipates if supplanted with thoughts based on loving kindness.’”

Researchers examined 71 participants who were self identified ‘white’ for the study. They were given photos of people from different ethnicities. One segment of the group were given instructions on LKM while the other segment was told to notice facial features in the photos.

Each group was given seven minutes to complete their respective tasks. Afterward, the participants were all asked to conjure either positive or negative words about the photos.

It was already known prior that individuals are more likely to rate those of their own ethnicity as positive compared to those of different ethnicities. This racial bias is one of the known ways to effectively measure prejudice. However, researchers conducting this study found that those who had done seven minutes worth of loving kindness meditation had a significantly reduced bias.

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According to Alexander Stell, author of the study, this finding ”indicates that some meditation techniques are about much more than feeling good, and might be an important tool for enhancing inter-group harmony.

We wanted to see whether doing LKM toward a member of another ethnic group would reduce the automatic preference people tend to show for their own ethnic group.”

It turns out that meditation has more value than typically thought. Not only does it improve personal health and well being, it has societal benefits as well.

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