Welcome back to the Healing Pain Podcast with Vidyamala Burch
We’re discussing how to use mindfulness and acceptance-based approaches to overcome chronic pain. My guest is Vidyamala Burch. She is a mindfulness and compassion teacher with years of helping people with pain, illness or stress live fuller and more meaningful lives. At the early age of seventeen, she sustained a spinal injury that required multiple surgeries and left her with chronic low back pain and partial paraplegia. After experiencing a period of hopelessness as well as helplessness, she discovered mindfulness as a way to ease the mental torment associated with physical pain.
She’s the author of two books, teaches and trains on the topics of mindfulness as well as compassion. Vidyamala was also awarded an honorary membership from The British Pain Society for outstanding contributions to the field of pain management. In this episode, we discuss how Vidyamala has used mindfulness to overcome chronic pain and how she teaches people with chronic pain to live fuller lives through mindfulness meditation. Without further ado, let’s begin. Let’s learn about mindfulness and acceptance-based approaches to chronic pain.
Watch the episode here:
How Mindfulness Meditation Can Help You Live Well With Pain With Vidyamala Burch
Vidyamala, welcome to the show. It’s great to have you here.
Great to be with you, Joe. Thanks for having me.
I’ve been following your work for a long time, probably in the early days when I started venturing into the mindfulness space and starting to seed it into my practice. I use it with myself and with patients. It’s almost like a secret that we have as practitioners. We start to use it first with ourselves then we get comfortable and then we use it with our patients. We need to reverse a little bit of that and use it with people who are suffering more and apply it to ourselves as well. I know at the beginning of your journey, there’s a bit of your own suffering that took you a while to explore and open up. Mindfulness was a big part of that. Can you bring us back to that time and talk to us about what that was like?
I injured my spine when I was sixteen, which was a long time ago. I ended up with chronic, persistent pain and ended up with a disability. This was back in New Zealand in the ‘80s and there was no help whatsoever to deal with the more mental and emotional side of it. In fact, there wasn’t much help. I have my original injury then I had a car crash and fractured another part of my spine so I was not in a good place. Several years later, I was exploring lots of things. I was trying yoga and diet. I was trying anything to get a handle on my situation.
I stumbled upon a Buddhist weekend retreat. I went on that and was taught to meditate. It was more intuitive than anything else but I intuitive that it was going to be possible to use my mind to help me ease my pain rather than having a mind that seems to ramp up my pain, which was my experience then. I had this quite direct intuition that my mind was a tool that I could potentially train to be a resource in my journey of living with chronic pain. That was way back in 1987. I then moved to the UK in 1990. I lived in a meditation retreat center for five years which was intensive training in working with the mind.
Around about 2000, I decided to see if I could develop a program to help other people living with chronic health conditions of any sort. That was the beginning of Breathworks, which is the program that I run. Originally, I started out running a couple of courses a week, experimenting and trying things out. After a number of years of that more experimental, exploratory phase developing a program that we’ve now got a good evidence base for helped hundreds of thousands of people.
The thing that brings me the greatest satisfaction and the greatest joy is knowing that I’m helping people. Back to myself as a young woman lying in a hospital bed with no support in terms of how to work with the mental and emotional side of my situation, I don’t want anyone else to be in that situation. If my program can help some people get their lives back and learn to work with their minds, then, I’m satisfied.
I’m curious around this time that you’re exploring mindfulness, back in the early days when you’re just starting to get into it before you went on that long retreat and you’re opening up and becoming aware of this idea that the mind can be an asset in your recovery. Were you also aware of maybe the negative implications or the negative impact that the mind could have on your current state? What did that mean for your future recovery?
To be honest, not really because I wasn’t aware. It even takes awareness to know that your mind is not helping you. I was more in a state of denial and confusion but there must have been some intuition of that because I quite quickly plunged into working with my mind, looking, understanding and training the mind. I must have intuitively known that not doing that was not serving me well and to do that would serve me well. I was confused and not aware of anything at that time.
How long did it take for you to come out of that fog so to speak, where you started to say, “This is helping me. I feel less stressed, have less pain, sleeping better, thinking more clear and able to focus and concentrate on things.” Pain can pull your focus in life.
It’s multi-layered. Quite quickly, I would have experienced some benefit but looking back, that was superficial. When you start working with your mind, what’s interesting is it’s not a steady smooth path as I’m sure you might have realized through your own practice. You think you’re making progress and then there’s another layer that arises to integrate and to work through. It’s a bit like a wave motion. You have a period where it all seems to be going well and then there’s a period where old habits seem to rise up and they get clarified and integrated. There’s another period where it’s all seems to be a bit easier.
After about ten years of meditating, I had another big crisis with my back. That was when I realized I had to ask myself, “What is it that I have not understood? I’ve been meditating for ten years and here I am, back in another big crisis.” I realized then that I hadn’t figured out how to take my practice out of my formal meditation into my life. That’s a pitfall many of us can fall into. I could meditate fairly well in terms of watching my mind when I meditate but then during my daily life, my habits were not serving me well. I’m a real boomer-buster. I have a tendency to overdo it and then crash. I realized, “The next thing I need to draw into my mindfulness practice is how to change my behavior in my daily life.”
The other thing that was interesting is that I realized that I’d subtly been using my meditation practice to try to escape from my body rather than to land more fully in my body. This is one of the pitfalls. Probably less so now that there’s more of us around who are quite experienced and skilled in teaching mindfulness but back then, none of my teachers had pain so I was having to figure out how to meditate in a painful body.
There was this subtle denial and avoidance that crept into my meditation practice. When I had my big crisis after ten years, I realized, “There’s a foundation here.” I have learned that my mind is a resource and I have trained it to some extent but A) I need to take it into my daily life and B) I need to turn towards my direct experience in my meditation practice. Rather than trying to escape it and avoid it in my meditation practice.
These are the mindfulness hurdles. The first hurdle is how do we get people to sit. “Let’s sit for three minutes and watch your mind,” then it’s like, “Now that we can do that, let’s stay with our mind during the days where it’s calm and during the days when it’s stormy.”
To learn not to even necessarily prefer one over the other and be with whatever arises with some sense of equanimity, kindness and openness.
Often, people realize, “I had a bad day. I want to go there because I feel better when I sit there and everything’s quiet and peaceful.” It’s not always quiet and peaceful in your seated position on the cushion lying down wherever you are. That third hurdle is like, “How do I take these skills and bring them into life?” Nowadays, it’s like, “I have a meditation area in my home.” The whole world is the meditation area.
The whole point of meditation is to take it into your life because that’s where we live. We have relationships. We want our meditation to make us more loving, kind and aware of others. We’re in a world of beauty and nature. We want to be saturated in life rather than using our meditation to escape life. That was the thing that took me a long time to understand.
The final hurdle you mentioned is the embodiment of the practice. The pro and con of an app is that someone is talking to you or guiding you and it’s going into your ears depending on what their instruction is. It may be a type of approach where we’re still separating the mind from the body. Especially in the world of chronic disease and chronic pain, it’s so important to tie these together. Do you find that there are a lot of approaches that are just focusing on the cognitive aspects of mindfulness and they’re not bringing it to that mind-body connection aspect?
There are some but to be honest, the only ones that are effective are the ones that integrate the mind and the body. Increasingly in my teaching, I draw out the fact that the head is a limb of the body. People think the head is separate from the body but it’s not. Like your arms are limbs, your head is a limb. In your head, you have a brain which is an organ and the brain happens to be the place where it feels like thoughts are located. Whether that’s true or not, I’m not going to go there.
I might use imagery. Letting your brain be soft and imagine that all your thoughts are having a lie down in the brain and body. This mind-body separation is a Western thing. It’s problematic with chronic pain and chronic disease management because if your body is hurting, you do not want to be there. You think, “I can just be in my head. I’ll avoid the body by being in my head,” but you have a body. We’ve all got a body. Trying to blank it out doesn’t work.
Mindfulness has this incredible counterintuitive element where we’re learning how to come closer to the body, which is where we think the pain resides. We’re having to come closer to the thing that we don’t want to inhabit. As we come closer with a loving, kind, soft and gentle awareness then we come closer to what we think is pain as a noun. It’s just a label. You realize it’s unpleasant sensations that are flowing and changing all the time as the breath is slowing and changing all the time. You can deconstruct this concept of pain, which is entirely mind created as an object and rest within the flow of experience moment by moment.
It does take time for me to realize that pain is a construct that we’ve developed. It takes a long time even for practitioners who are well-trained in psychology, to realize, “Pain is just a construct.” How do we start to chip away at that ice block until we have something that’s more useful?
Even that requires a lot of unpacking because if I heard that, as someone with pain who hadn’t been introduced to any of this, I’d think they’re telling me that my pain isn’t real, I’m making up my pain, and I’m useless and a failure. That’s where I would have gone years ago. What’s important to say is that pain is a construct but the unpleasant sensations are real. It’s just that they’re not exactly the same one moment to the next. They’re changing and flowing. Some have become close.
We realized, “That’s tingling but a bit pleasant. My whole back isn’t hurting. It’s just my lower back that’s hurting. What is it? A bit of ache and stabbing. It’s tingling, pleasant, breath, soften. It’s changed.” We’re not denying people’s experience. That’s important to say. A flow of unpleasant sensations is a different a whole different notion than my pain as this block of ice as you say. You have these sensations and then we impose upon that a solidity. We make it the enemy and then we fight it with our minds and we get tied up in a knot.
The story about pain is the biggest challenge. Even when people have found meditation and they have “bought into it,” they’re still like, “I’m going to meditate but I’m still going to look for the solution out there.” There’s still a need for a specialist or there still might be a new technique that’s being developed. You have this building and floor-by-floor you’re taking it down. Each floor is a little bit different regarding pain for all of us.
One floor maybe that injury you had when you were sixteen. Another floor maybe that connection to a relationship in your life. All of that can be unpacked in mindfulness if it’s taught appropriately. Making sure to teach the mind aspects as well as the body aspects and integrate them together. I’m wondering as you went from a beginner and then you deep dive in a Buddhist campus. At the point where you realized, “I have to embody this in my life,” is that after all that training?
It’s gradual but the point where I thought maybe I could offer this to others was about 2000. I started to meditate in 1987 so it’s thirteen years later before I felt ready in myself because I wanted to come from an authentic place. Remember, I was having to also invent this. Now, you can go on a training course but in those days, I was having to invent it for myself. Although, I was greatly influenced by Jon Kabat-Zinn with his work and mindfulness-based stress reduction.
It’s a little bit like putting grains of sand on a set of scales. Eventually, the set of scales will tip. My mindfulness practice was like that. It wasn’t like I had some big a-ha moment. It was just gradually, every day, month, year, or decade and then my relationship with my pain has changed. I still have pain, discomfort and unpleasant sensations but I try to experience them on that basic level. Without constructing what I call secondary suffering, which is all the thought about the pain or the emotions about the unpleasant sensations, catastrophizing or regrets. All I know is that I’ve got unpleasant sensations in my lower back full stop. That’s it.
A patient came to me one time, probably read some things on my website and did some research of her own. She came to me with the word pain catastrophizing. We tried to understand what it was. She’s read some things about us trying to figure out how it relates to pain. The word pain catastrophizing is always complicated for people living with pain. From my training in mindfulness, I asked her, “Forget about that word for a second. Put that out of your mind for a minute. How do you feel about uncertainty with regard to pain? If you had to move forward knowing there’s some uncertainty that this pain may ebb and flow, meaning some days you’ll have no pain, other days you’ll have significant pain and most days in between there’ll be varying degrees of that. How are you with this uncertainty?”
It helped her with regard to how meditation can help her because she knows that her mind has an influence on this uncertainty. Yet, no one has control over her mind except through her own training and the building up her own awareness. One of the things I appreciate about mindfulness is that some of the contemplative lessons simplify the complicated science that is coming out. Complicated science is important. If you’re a licensed practitioner, you have to know and have a foundation of that science. There’s this leap from the science, the practice that’s hard for people. It’s interesting because I look at your work and you did that wonderfully many years ago before the science was even there.
It’s quite interesting because one of the things that I’ve always said about our program is it comes from the inside out, which is mindfulness-based pain management and there are lots of mindfulness-based programs now. A lot of them have been developed by psychologists and they’re good. The reason I teach it is that I know it works and frankly, that’s enough. I found science to back it up and we’ve got an evidence base. I’d be quite happy to change the scientific framework if something better comes along because, in a way, that is secondary to the fact that it completely came out of my own experience. I’ve taught it to lots and lots of people and I know what works. In a way, that’s enough. We don’t need to have complicated conceptual models for this work.
As a licensed professional, I appreciate that because I straddled both of those concepts. It’s like, “Where’s the research? Show me the research,” and then it’s like, “Now that we have the research, how do we build a model that therapists can use in practice and that’s accessible and desirable for the person with pain?” The second aspect is probably more important and, at times, even more challenging because you can take a mindfulness intervention. There are researched articles out there where they’ve done mindfulness for three minutes and showed that there had been some change. I’m like, “That’s great. How do you bring this and cultivate this into a program that we can use in practice and that’s approachable for people with pain?”
The research around mindfulness is not new. I was having a conversation with Professor Annette Willgens, who’s a PT professor I interviewed a couple of episodes back. She teaches mindfulness to her PT students for stress relief because PT school can be stressful. She and I were talking and we were saying it’s incredible that mindfulness is not more embedded in the PT world because the early research around mindfulness was conducted back in the early ‘80s and we’re now in 2021. They say on average, it takes seventeen years for evidence to hit practice and in some places this is still not even hitting. When you say things like that, it’s what people need to hear.
The other thing about mindfulness is that when you delve into it deeply, it’s profoundly simple. In the West, we like complexity, complex models, intellectual, academic but the actual experience is simple. The experiences come close to what you’re experiencing at this moment physically, mentally, emotionally, know it and then make choices using our awareness about how you respond to that. Simply, you’re making a choice to open up and release around that experience rather than to resist, contract and tighten around that experience. That’s it at its most simple.
If we can train ourselves to come close and open and release, that can profoundly change our lives because when we’re living with chronic pain and chronic illness, we’re living with resistance on the whole. It’s the resistance that’s ruining your life, not the pain. It’s the not-wanting mind. It’s the, “I don’t want this,” and the physical tension, mental agitation and emotional distress. That’s what’s damaging and wrecking your life, not the unpleasant sensations. They’re unpleasant and difficult to live with sometimes but they’re bearable on the whole. It’s all the other stuff that’s so troublesome. That’s a simple concept and it’s hard to practice but you don’t need a PhD to get that.
As people have started to engage more with mindfulness, I’m sure before they come to your training, they tried other types of mindfulness apps, maybe seeing a practitioner, etc. What are the pitfalls you’ve seen with regard to this pop culture of mindfulness that has been created with regard to people who have pain starting to explore this work?
I’m quite forgiving of all that stuff. I tend to think a little bit of something is better than nothing. We’ve got all the apps out there now and I do contribute to some apps. They’re not going to bring about depth on the whole but they might plant a seed. When I first started doing this work, people hadn’t heard of mindfulness. They come along not knowing what they were coming to. Our publicity told them to a certain extent, which is why they came. Whereas now, the whole idea of mental health, mental wellbeing, training the mind is becoming embedded in our culture. Not nearly enough but it’s beginning.
Even with the pandemic, it’s so interesting that mental health is on the agenda in a way that I don’t think years ago would have been. It’s become more acceptable to admit anxiety, PTSD and working with the mind. On the whole, most of them are harmless. The worst they can do is give someone something that’s shallow and superficial. I tend to think something’s better than nothing. If someone’s distressed, they find an app and there are some practices there that help them, that’s good. They’re going to get more if they’re engaged with a more comprehensive program. Popularizing of mindfulness has had some real benefits. I don’t think we still understand that it’s as important as looking after your body but I would hope that over the next 50 years or so that will be completely normal. Kids in school will learn that as their bread and butter.
It’s certainly taken the stigma out of mental health challenges in a way that probably traditional psychology hasn’t been able to, unfortunately.
It’s quite interesting here in the UK where male mental health is such an issue because men don’t like to go to groups and talk about their emotions. I’m totally generalizing there. My apologies to any men who are reading. It’s interesting, Prince William and Prince Harry, who are members of the royal family, have done amazing work around destigmatizing men talking about their mental health and that’s brilliant. On our courses, we still get predominantly women, which is a shame so I’m hoping that over the next period of time men will also feel more able to admit to pain, emotional distress and sees the potential of the challenge of mind training.
I’m always happy when male PTs join my courses related to cognitive-behavioral interventions because it tells you, “There’s a change happening.” A lot of those male figures and role models were working in chronic pain settings but they’re also the coach of their kid’s baseball team. They start to work mindfulness into healthy activities and health promotion sports, which has a tremendous role. When you look at professional athletes, there’s been a couple of articles that have been published around that, which has helped in that area. It is great to see mindfulness as a whole destigmatized and then you see these little circles that surround it. People are grasping onto it saying, “Let me learn the foundation. How does this fit into my particular niche in my segment of life?”
Mindfulness is still fairly new in our culture. Mindfulness in the secular health-related context started in the late ‘70s with the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn. Around 2000, it got some traction with the development of NBCT but it’s still new and it’s still white middle class, predominantly women. The next evolution is to expand it to a wider demographic. That’s coming. There’s a recognition that’s the next thing that those of us who are leaders in the field, we need to look at how do we language things, how do we articulate things and what models are we using to appeal to a more diverse group. We’ve all got minds that can cause us a tremendous amount of suffering and we’ve all got the potential to be free of that.
You mentioned Jon Kabat Zinn a couple of times, who’s a big influence on almost everyone, who’s engaged with mindfulness. How does your program differ from his? His original work and much of the work around Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction is typically an eight-week, 2.5-hour intervention. There’s a place for that in healthcare and there are also enormous challenges in healthcare with a 2.5-hour intervention because it’s time-intensive both for the practitioner and the person. A lot of the research around mindfulness points that you don’t need that for the intervention to be useful for someone. How does your work differ from some of his early work?
The program that I developed is called Mindfulness for Health. It was called Peace of Mind originally. It’s under the heading of Breathworks, which is the organization I founded. The Mindfulness for Health Course is an eight-week program but where it differs from MBSR is that the meditations are shorter. In MBSR, you do 45-minute meditations. Jon Kabat-Zinn is quite hardcore, which I also admire and respect. If you’ve got chronic pain, you’re not going to meditate for 40 to 45 minutes. We do ten-minute meditations and we invite people to do this twice a day.
Half of our program is compassion-based practices which are important because if you’re living with pain then cultivating kindness and learning how to be tender towards your experience is important. That’s partly based on the Buddhist training that I was always taught to do mindfulness of breathing one day and then love and kindness practice the next day. It worked for me to balance out if you like the concentration, mind training aspect with emotional training. I wanted to bring that into my program.
We’ve got quite a structured mindfulness and daily life module because what I’ve learned from my own experience and the people I’ve taught who live with pain is boom and bust is a common phenomenon. You’ve got limited resources, physical capacity and energy and the tendency to overdo it when you feel good and then to crash as a consequence. Over three weeks, we do a lot around that and we get people to start using timers to time their activities. For example, if I’m working at my computer, I time in for twenty minutes or so and then I’ll have a stretch. That’s not an MBSR in that specific way.
With tradition, it’s an eight-week program. What I’ve done is I’ve tried to make that basic concept accessible in lots of different ways. I’ve written a book, which has got the program. You can do that in your own time as many weeks as you like. I developed a ten-day course, which has all the same principles, fifteen minutes a day audio program. All of our work is now online. We do these global eight-week courses in a group online and they’re successful and popular. There’s more that we can do to take the principles and make them more accessible in lots of different ways.
In the mindfulness field, there was a recognition of the limitation of the eight-week programs as the only way to deliver mindfulness for all the reasons that you’re saying. We’ve got an underlying framework as well behind the eight-week program that can be applied in lots of different ways and this uses the acronym Be AWARE. That’s being aware of body, thoughts and emotions as the foundation. That’s the first training and then the A of AWARE is compassionate Acceptance. W is Waking up to wander, so it’s recognizing the importance of mindfulness of pleasant experience. We’re not just teaching people how to work with the pain but we’re also teaching them how to open up to everything.
The second A in AWARE is Arising and passing so it’s learning to rest more with a fluid and open sense of life. The R is Relating so taking your mindfulness practice into your relationships. The E of AWARE is Engaging with all of your life so taking your practice into your whole life. That’s the structure of the eight-week program. You can offer those basic principles in a whole variety of different ways, which we’re starting to do more and more of.
When a practitioner or someone with pain completes your program and often there are definitely people who come to mindfulness and they have complete transformations. At times, there’s a quality to that transformation that is spiritual in nature. This is definitely left out of most of the research on mindfulness. How do you start to have that conversation with the person you’re practicing with or you’re teaching the practice to? You mentioned where our thoughts are. Are they in our head or they stay someplace else? When people start to sit, they realize, “Is this transcendent sense of self that happens?” That transcendent sense of self is key in the training of meditation with regard to chronic pain specifically. I’m wondering if you start to speak with the people you train or the participants about that sense of transcendence.
It’s such an interesting area because I came to this with a Buddhist perspective. In Buddhism, it’s set within a spiritual framework and the goal is complete vast mind, open heart interconnectedness going way beyond a limited, fixed self. Partly because I came from that end and then what I’ve done with Breathworks is translate that into accessible language, so-called secular language. I’ve woven that in slightly mysterious ways. It is a secular program. I’m not teaching Buddhism but in a way, I can’t help but bring some of that perspective into the way I lead things and the way I teach things.
We run Breathworks Meditation Retreats and we definitely bring it in there. They’re not Buddhist ideas as such. They have to do with the human mind and consciousness. Buddhism just happens to be a 2,500-year tradition that’s been exceptionally good at articulating the process of training the mind and freeing the mind. The universal qualities, probably in some religions you call it God, is all pointing to the same thing.
On our retreats, we can go into that more and then get into dialogue with people. It’s moving and touching because you’re right that what happens is as you begin to deconstruct this great building of the pain and me and my struggles, you begin to soften and dissolve everything. You’re not dissolving to nothing, it’s more like you’re opening up to something bigger than you’d ever thought was even possible and more beautiful.
I do love doing the retreats where we can bring in more of that perspective. We’ve also got a Community of Practice at Breathworks, which is an online forum. We can have conversations there and people can write anything in. We added a day retreat on mindfulness and imagination. It was so exciting. We could begin to open out the incredible potential of the human imagination and how that works with mindfulness.
I try to give people more space to talk about those aspects of what their experience is. One of the challenges that we have taken mindfulness and place it in psychological trials is it becomes a cognitive process. The spiritual is taken out of it or that transcendent sense of self is taken out of it so to speak and I don’t want to lose that. I always want to bring that into the conversation somehow because even if you try to tweeze it out of a mindfulness-based approach, it’s still there for people.
Are you physio-based? Is that your background?
I’m a physical therapist.
If I went to see a physical therapist years ago who had that conversation with me, I would have welcomed it hugely rather than just being about your body or your mind like, “Who are you?” It’s about your whole life. “What are your values? What’s important to you?” That’s beautifully put. That is the danger with the secularizing of these amazing contemplator practices. It becomes a cognitive exercise. That’s a tiny fragment of what we’re doing.
People come and they don’t want the pain. They want something else. I’m always like, “What if that pain is that stepping stone to something greater that could potentially come into your life if you have some tools to allow yourself to move over that hurdle of pain?” You see changes happen to people. I’d love to see more of that. We can hold on to some of that contemplative history and bring it into modern approaches because people, especially in COVID, have changed things. A lot of people reflect on, “What is my life about now and what I want it to be like going forward?” People are changing jobs, relationships and their health. These are important concepts to keep in the training and the conversations with our patients and clients.
Otherwise, it’s just another weird Western thing where the head is this disembodied thing that we’re training rather than that being your whole life, your body, heart, mind and values, what’s important. I do agree that the pandemic is absolutely awful. It is an opportunity, not only for the individual but also for us as species. I feel passionate about that and it’s going to break my heart if we just all slip back into trashing the planet the way we were before. I’ll be utterly heartbroken. I realized, “All I can do is do my little bit. I can’t change everybody else but I can look at my own behavior and how I live my life.” I’m quite determined to be different going forward.
One of the great things about the Mindfulness Committee is they’re good at identifying populations and groups of people that need support. Oftentimes, they’re there. They’re in the prisons helping people meditate. They’re working with people who have had trauma or don’t want to enter the mental health system for trauma treatment. They’re working with LGBT communities and with people of color. They’re helping these populations of people grow, expand and overcome things like a pandemic that have potentially adversely impacted them more than people with opportunities and privilege. It’s interesting to watch communities like that grow and expand.
That is the next wave of mindfulness. We have to get out of our white middle class, predominantly female demographic if we are going to be impacting the world in the way that mindfulness can because it is such a universal simple approach to overcoming all this unnecessary suffering. There is suffering that’s unavoidable in life. I’ve still got unpleasant sensations in my body. That’s the fact. Our suffering is mind-created and we can change that but it’s going to be awful if it’s just the white middle-class female part of the world that has access to that.
It’s been a pleasure speaking with you. All of our followers will share this episode with their friends and family on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and all over social media because we are 100% followers of mindfulness and meditation especially for chronic pain. Tell people how they can learn more about you and your products and services.
You can go to the Breathworks website, which is www.Breathworks-Mindfulness.org.uk. There’s my own website which is www.Vidyamala-Burch.com. You can find out there. If you want to join our Community of Practice, it’s free. If you go to the Vidyamala Burch website and click on the Resources tab, you’ll see Community of Practice there. I lead a meditation every Tuesday evening, UK time for 30 minutes that you can join. It’s all free. We’d welcome anyone who wanted to come and join us and make the most of our resources. I mentioned the online courses. There are these online Mindfulness for Health Courses that are also on the website.
I want to thank you for joining us in this episode talking about mindfulness and chronic pain. Make sure to share this out with your friends and family and hop on our mailing list at IntegrativePainScienceInstitute.com so I can share with you the latest episode. I’m Dr. Joe Tatta. It’s a pleasure and we’ll see you next episode.
- Vidyamala Burch
- @vidyamalaburch – Facebook
- Jon Kabat Zinn
- Annette Willgens – past episode
- Mindfulness for Health
- Meditation Retreats
- Community of Practice
About Vidyamala Burch
Vidyamala Burch is a mindfulness and compassion teacher, author, disability spokesperson and Co-founder of the leading mindfulness organisation Breathworks.
Vidyamala began teaching her mindfulness approach for managing pain and illness following her own personal experience living with health challenges. At age 17, she sustained spinal injuries that required multiple surgeries and left her with partial paraplegia and chronic pain. She began to explore mindfulness and meditation as a way to manage her pain and found the results to be life-changing and transformative.
In 2001, she developed the world’s first Mindfulness-based Pain Management (MBPM) programme and in 2004 went on to found the Breathworks organization with friends and fellow meditation teachers Sona Fricker and Gary Hennessey. Today, Breathworks has taught over 100,000 people their mindfulness approach to coping with pain, illness and stress. Through her work, Vidyamala is dedicated to passing on the tools that have helped her reclaim a full, happy and meaningful life.
Vidyamala is the author of Living Well with Pain and Illness (2008), Mindfulness for Health (2013), and Mindfulness for Women (2016). Mindfulness for Health was awarded first prize in Popular Medicine in the British Medical Association Books Awards in 2014, and was named the best self-help book in its category by health professionals in the UK’s Reading Well Scheme.
The British Pain Society awarded Vidyamala an honorary membership for her contribution to the field of pain management in 2018, and the Shaw Trust’s Power List named her one of the most influential disabled people in the UK in 2019 and 2020.
Vidyamala continues to teach retreats and workshops, and speaks at a number of international summits, events and webinars. Her teachings can also be found on meditation apps Insight Timer, Simple Habit and Mindfulness.com.
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