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A Practice to Heal Prejudice

How loving-kindness meditation taps the roots of empathy

<em>Edit Article</em> A Practice to Heal Prejudice

Illustration Credit: Tribe by Laura Berger

In a classroom at Yale University, community members gathered to learn a simple practice that has been taught for thousands of years. These people volunteered to be part of a study of loving-kindness meditation led by Yoona Kang, then a graduate student at Yale. Kang’s study asked a simple but socially relevant question: Can meditation reduce prejudice?Prejudice has been a focus of national attention in the aftermath of arrests involving excessive and deadly force by police officers against racial minorities. But the question of prejudice has been a topic of deep interest to psychologists for decades. Despite the thousands of studies on prejudice, only recently have psychologists begun to look at whether meditation can assuage this social ill. The findings deserve attention.Loving-kindness, known as metta in the Pali language of India, is a practice as fundamental to Buddhism as mindfulness. Although all forms of Buddhism maintain some form of metta, it is most often associated with Theravada Buddhism. Steven Smith, a practitioner in the Burmese Buddhist tradition, cofounder of Vipassana Hawai’i and the …

Jason Drwal is a freelance writer, blogger, psychologist, and avid practitioner of mindfulness.

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