Loving-Kindness to Support Racial Justice Work

This is an opportunity to notice the quality of heart that is associated with the intentions you bring to your practice.

This is a practice I call an ocean of loving-kindness. We’ll start by centering and gathering our attention, and our intention to practice together in these free moments. Checking in, noticing the quality of the heart that is associated with the intentions you bring to practice in this area. I’m going to guide us through this ocean of loving-kindness for racial justice work practice. As you settle into this practice, sense into the points of contact between the body and the chair, or the floor beneath you. And then, just resting, take a few cautious breaths in. Notice the sensations of breathing and sitting, attending to the body and the being in this moment, just settling in and feeling the support of a conscious breath or two. Let the mind rest on the sensations of breathing and sitting. 

A Loving-Kindness Practice to Support Racial Justice Work

With this practice we’re going to allow a bit of visualization to accompany the words. There will be opportunities to repeat certain words and phrases after me, or to alter those phrases in ways that feel right for you. 

Watch the video:

Listen to the audio:

Loving-Kindness to Support Racial Justice Work

  • 16:27

Read the practice:

  1. I’m going to begin by asking you to call to mind someone who has been a support for you as you’ve experimented with, explored, or learned something about race and racism in your own life, in the lives of others. I think of this person as a benefactor along the way in our journey to deepen our understanding of race in our own life, racism, and the suffering it causes. Contemplate how we might thrive, notwithstanding the fact that racism is real. How we might do the work of alleviating racism in our time. Think of a benefactor, someone who’s helped you in some way. It could be a family member, a friend, a teacher, someone who you appreciate for helping to guide you, support you, ground you. As you breathe in and out, really bring kindness in if you’re having trouble identifying just the right person, or if you feel like you could use more of such a person in your life. Just breathe in and out, and allow whatever name or person that comes to mind to be the person for now. 
  2. The invitation is to offer this wish to that person, “May you be filled with loving-kindness. May you be well in body and in mind. May you be safe from inner and outer dangers. May you be truly joyful, easeful, and free.” 
  3. Now let the image or the reflection of that person dissolve a bit, and come back to the sensations of just sitting and breathing. Call to mind your own being and body, whether now, or at a point when you first started learning, unwanted or otherwise about race and racism. Really you’re visualizing calling to mind your own being and body either right now, or at a prior time. This is meant to center on your experience—learning, exploring race and racism, its impact on you. 
  4. We’re going to invite ourselves to bring loving-kindness right to bear on this sense of ourselves as we engage in our own learning, deepening our awareness, deepening our capacity to heal. “May I be filled with loving-kindness, may I be well in body and in mind as I examine race and racism, and do my own work to heal and to support alleviating racial suffering. May I be safe from inner and outer dangers as I do this work.” You have to be truly joyful, peaceful, liberated and free. 
  5. Now the invitation is to call to mind those you know to be doing the work of making us all more aware about race and racism, trying to minimize the harms of racism. This could be a person who’s inspired you by working for racial justice throughout history, or in our time right now. An advocate that you’re thinking of in your community, in your workplace, in your community of practice, in the public realm. This may be a person or this may be a whole group or community that comes to mind when you think of those who are advancing our efforts to become more aware of racism and harms. See if we can call to mind folks that we see as kind of heroes, or folks that we admire, we’re inspired by. The invitation is to expand our loving-kindness wishes. We know that those folks who are on the front lines are suffering too, so we offer these words or phrases that you would craft for your own. 
  6. Offer right now toward those who have been advancing the cause of racial justice, “May you each and all be filled with loving-kindness. May you be well in body and in mind. May you be safe from inner and outer dangers. May you be truly joyful, easeful and free.” Let those images go and simply come back to sensations of breathing and sitting. 
  7. Now call to mind the image of a person, or a group of people that you may feel some tension with around the work of racial justice. Maybe there are folks that you think don’t get it, or aren’t interested in doing this work in the way that you are, or the way that you think they should be. We’re calling to mind a person or a group of folk with whom we may be feeling some difficulty, some challenge. What we’re going to do is see if we can, as best we can, offer loving-kindness to that person. Again, we’re just going to see what arises. We’re going to practice as best we can with this one, recognizing we’re all works in progress, and we’re all learning as we go. 
  8. Invite image of the person, or the group with whom we may be having difficulty, as we think about doing the work of racial justice in a way that might include them. “May you each and all be filled with loving-kindness. May you be well in body and in mind. May you be safe from inner and outer dangers. May you be truly joyful, useful, and free.” Repeating those phrases or some version of them as we sit together in silence. 
  9. As you’ve offered that last round of loving-kindness, blessings, or intentions, let thoughts, emotions, and sensations come up. The invitation now is to imagine all of us, one common human family wherever we are, on the ark of awakening to our role in the work of doing racial justice together. Working together to alleviate racism wherever we are. We’re just getting started, we’re not sure this work is for us, we’re not sure what our role might be, or if indeed we’re sort of on the other end of the spectrum. We’re exhausted, we’re fatigued, we’re trying to open our hearts to those who may be new to the work and replenish ourselves for the work ahead so that we see we’re all in it together and we can feel the thread of our common humanity. 
  10. As we come together seeking, yet again, to try to alleviate unnecessary suffering in this very human life, the invitation is to see if you can expand the wish for loving-kindness to encompass all humanity in this moment. Repeat these phrases. We say them as best we can. We may live our way into really feeling them eventually, or not. Just see if we can open up and experiment with a beginner’s mind with this one. “May each and all be filled with love and kindness, every single human being on the planet today, our common humanity. May we each and all be well in body, and in mind, wherever we are on the journey to working with racial justice. May we each and all be safe from inner and outer dangers, grounded in our sense of belonging here on this one planet, this one home that we share. May we each and all be safe from inner and outer dangers, and may we each and all be truly joyful, peaceful, connected, resourced, and free.” Now just allowing what’s arising here to kind of dissolve, bringing yourself back to the sensations of just sitting and breathing. 
  11. As we bring this meditation to a close, once again as I like to do, I want to invite you to set aside a few minutes to journal about what came up for you as you engaged in this practice. See if a mindful period of journaling can deepen what you consciously take away, the sense of intentionality you want to bring around experimenting with loving-kindness practice as a support for your engagement around doing the work of racial justice, anti-racist work. Thank you so much for your practice. And for the inspiration you bring by your commitments to bringing mindfulness into the world.

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About the author

Rhonda Magee

Rhonda V. Magee is a professor of law at the University of San Francisco. Also trained in sociology and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), she is a highly practiced facilitator of trauma-sensitive, restorative MBSR interventions for lawyers and law students, and for minimizing the effects of social-identity-based bias. Magee has been a visiting scholar at the Center for the Study of Law and Society and a visiting professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley.