Readers know I urge lawyers to consider for themselves mediation and mindfulness. But I must admit I wish loving-kindness meditation (LKM) had another name. The name sounds saccharine and kumbaya, and therefore may be, to many lawyers, off-putting. Nevertheless I think the practice of LKM and its benefits to the profession are worth considering and find the research on the practice very intriguing.
The practice is described in the research article "Open Hearts Build Lives: Positive Emotions, Induced through Loving-Kindness Meditation, Build Consequential Personal Resources" [pdf] (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology).
Like other meditation practices, LKM involves quiet contemplation in a seated posture, often with eyes closed and an initial focus on the breath. Yet whereas mindfulness meditation involves training one’s attention toward the present moment in an openminded (non-judgmental) way, LKM involves directing one’s emotions toward warm and tender feelings in an open-hearted way. Individuals are first asked to focus on their heart region and contemplate a person for whom they already feel warm and tender feelings (e.g., their child, a close loved one). They are then asked to extend these warm feelings first to themselves and then to an ever-widening circle of others.
The benefits seem to be many for interpersonal interactions. From the research article linked to above:
Participants who invested an hour or so each week practicing this form of meditation enhanced a wide range of positive emotions in a wide range of situations, especially when interacting with others. We find these data especially promising. LKM appears to be one positive emotion induction that keeps on giving, long after the identifiable “event” of meditation practice.
And from the reseach "Loving-Kindness Meditation Increases Social Connectedness" [pdf] (Emotion):
Sounds like, in the right circumstances and with some open-minded (no pun intended) lawyers, LKM could facilitate the client-centered practice of law.
Note: Another somewhat related study (on couples) which included the practice of LKM: "Mindfulness-Based Relationship Enhancement" [pdf] (Behavior Therapy).
Image credit: FreeFoto.com.