Using Mindfulness to Fight Chronic Pain

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Key Questions
  • What are some common misperceptions about mindfulness meditation?
  • How can meditation possibly help debilitating chronic pain?
  • Why should busy, tired people make this an easy habit to follow?
Interview Notes

Find more about Vidyamala Burch and her work here:

Vidyamala Burch


Vidyamala was born and raised in New Zealand and first became interested in meditation in 1985 when receiving hospital treatment for a spinal injury. She intuited that meditation, mindfulness and kindness/compassion could offer a unique means of easing the mental suffering associated with the physical pain she was experiencing, which has turned out to be the case. For the subsequent 30 years she has continued to follow this thread, moving to the UK in 1990 to live at Taraloka, a retreat centre in Shropshire, training further in meditation and preparing for ordination into the Triratna Buddhist Order in 1995. Her spinal condition deteriorated further in the late 1990s and she now uses crutches or a wheelchair for mobility due to partial paraplegia, but her overall quality of life has continued to improve as she has become more and more adept at managing her responses to her physical condition and enriching her life in other ways.

In 1996 she moved to Manchester and in 2001 she started teaching mindfulness-based approaches to others living with physical pain and illness, with funding from the Millennium Commission. In 2004 she founded Breathworks with Sona Fricker and Gary Hennessey, both good friends of hers, who are very experienced meditators and teachers. Breathworks has now spread internationally with trainers in over 25 countries. Vidyamala teaches internationally on both Breathworks and Buddhist courses and retreats. She is an author of three books including Mindfulness for Health (2013) which won first prize in the British Medical Association book awards 2014 in the popular medicine category for books aimed at the general public.

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