HCiA013: Vidyamala Burch – Mindfulness – learning how to live well with pain. Part 2: Mindfulness techniques for chronic pain including the Breathworks approach.

This is the second part of our interview with Vidyamala Burch, co-founder of Breathworks.

We return to the conversation with a discussion about the phases of acceptance. In Part 1, we discussed denial and bargaining as the initial phases Vidyamala had experienced.  Next, we have a genuine acceptance of the situation. This is not to be confused with a passive resignation but instead is a willingness to live with your situation whilst still actively managing it. I was very inspired to know that Vidyamala has also moved beyond acceptance to a further phase, which she calls flourishing. After turning inwards to accept pain, she is now able to turn outwards to the world because she has increased capacity to do more. She now has a feeling of emotional and physical abundance – “life just gets better and better”!

We discuss the difference between primary and secondary suffering. Primary suffering is the physical sensation of pain. But we can exacerbate the situation by all the secondary ways we resist and react to that pain – tension, breath holding, catastrophic thinking, anxiety and depression. Vidyamala has learnt that by turning towards the experience (“here is pain, my old friend”), we can reduce the secondary reactions because we release the attachment and judgement of pain.

I was so pleased to have met Vidyamala earlier this year at the Sydney Breathworks teacher training retreat. I am going back for more in Feb 2015 and I cannot wait!

I was so pleased to have met Vidyamala earlier this year at the Sydney Breathworks teacher training retreat. I am going back for more in Feb 2015 and I cannot wait!

Mindfulness is learning to live with pain, living in the present moment without judgement. A key component is awareness of breath. By holding our breath, we can contribute to secondary suffering and simply noticing the breath can be calming and a great place to start with mindfulness practice. Another great introduction is the Breathworks approach which incorporates an 8 week program which can be completed in person or online and is outlined in Vidyamala’s book Mindfulness for Health.

Vidyamala shares her personal self-care routine. While she is a busy person, travelling the world and sharing her story and the Breathworks approach, she always makes time for her daily pain management. These include daily meditation practice and stretching/mindful movement. She swims a few times per week, incorporates regular breaks into her working day and maintains healthy eating and sleep patterns.

Her key message for those wanting to manage their own health, is that it takes routine and discipline. You can have a transformation with lots of little changes over time – steadily and persistently doing the things that are good for you. She knows because it has completely, utterly “changed her life”.

For more information, I HIGHLY recommend reading Vidyamala’s books or visiting Breathworks website for many useful tips, information, resources and available online courses.


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