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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Breathworks book to be published in six countries

‘Living well with pain and illness’ was first published last year by Vidyamala, founder of Breathworks - one of the FWBO’s most successful Right Livelihood businesses.

We’ve recently heard her book is now being translated and published in 6 countries and/or languages: German, the USA, Holland, Russia, Denmark, and Maharastra (where it will be translated into Marathi). Others are in the pipeline.

Meanwhile the Dutch version of the Breathworks website has just gone live at joining the Spanish version, Respiravida, launched last year.

Breathworks courses are now run to help people deal with any sort of stress or difficulty as well as physical pain.

At present Sona and Vidyamala are in Sweden at the moment running their first Training Retreat, which is being held at Dharmagiri, the FWBO’s Swedish retreat centre.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Dharma teaching and Breathworks in Turkey

Vajracaksu, the only Order Member living and teaching Dharma in Istanbul, Turkey, writes with news of some recent successes -

"Greetings from Istanbul. I thought I’d keep FWBO News up to date a bit with my mindfulness, meditation and Dharma activities in Istanbul. Since I last wrote about 9 months ago my meditation and meditation & Buddhism courses and events have been attracting significantly more people. There have been a number of small but important developments in my teaching activities.

"I’ve given my first two full length Dharma talks; also my first “Evoking Kindness” meditation course in both Turkish and English; led a few day retreats and several “Invitation to Silence” sessions of shrine room practice. And for the first time ever I actually have a weekly Sunday morning drop-in meditation class at a health centre called "The Life Co." - mostly I get people who are detoxing/fasting coming to these classes.

"Over the past couple of months more and more openings are emerging for me. For example, just last week I gave a presentation to a foreign women’s group called “Corona.” The presentation was called, “Meditation: The Natural Healer”; it ended with a lovely period of the mindfulness of breathing. The whole session went down very well I’d say. As per usual I continue to find it a privilege introducing people to mindfulness, meditation and to the Dharma. I continue to be amazed at the subtle power of meditation practice. It often seems like magic to me! In just 20 to 40 minutes people often become peaceful and happy! Magic!

"I have some other happy news to report. In February at last I became Turkey’s first accredited Breathworks trainer…I write that with a sense of pride! (See my profile on the Breathworks site) At the moment I’m in the middle of leading a “Living Well with Pain & Illness” course which is fully booked. Again it’s deeply satisfying to sense and witness people benefiting from the wonderful tools Breathworks offers - not least making use of the simplicity and healing powers of the breath.

"At the moment I’m also leading a 6 week meditation & Buddhism course entitled “The Network of Personal Relationships” which is going very well. Our current ‘daily life practice’ is to be more aware than usual of the ways people have and do benefit us through their acts of generosity and kindness.

"I’m confident that over the next 6-12 months (if not over the next 5-10 years!) even more people will come along to events I lead. More and more people are hearing about and becoming interested in meditation and I think this trend will continue; even accelerate over the next year or two.

"I thought I’d end this bulletin with a personal write-up one person did following one of the day retreats I led:

“I had been in Istanbul a few months when I googled, “Meditation, Istanbul” and Vajracaksu popped up. Wow, someone from the FWBO was here and they were teaching meditation! It’s been hard to keep up my mediation practice as a) I’m not very disciplined and b) I’m not very disciplined. So I was very excited to hear that Vajracaksu was running a meditation day.

On the day I made my way over to Ortakoy on one of the many old ferries that zig zag across the Bosphorous. Vajracaksu’s apartment has been converted into a lovely shrine room with a small garden at the back. The other participants had already eaten three raisins mindfully and introduced themselves by the time I arrived. We settled into body awareness which was very relaxing and then a period of the mindfulness of breathing. As there were both Turkish and English speakers, Vajracaksu taught in both languages which was very useful. During the tea break we all got to know each other a bit better. There was a woman who had been in Istanbul for nine years and had lost touch with meditation, there was a Georgian woman from America whose dream it was to meet a Sufi, there was a young Turkish guy who had been passionately meditating by himself for years and there was a Turkish woman who was trying to practice daily. 

As usual on these kinds of days everyone was looking to get to know themselves better and get in touch with reality. The atmosphere was lovely and soon everyone bonded over a huge curry cooked by Vajracaksu. At the end of the day, everyone wrote a letter to themselves to remind themselves of what they had learnt. It was a magical day, greatly appreciated by everyone and I hope to attend many more in the future!”

SADHU Vajracaksu!

You can find more details of his classes on his website

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Friday, January 09, 2009

Breathworks on the BBC: research vindicates mindfulness approaches to depression

News has just reached us that last month the ethical and religious news show on BBC Radio 4 ran an interview with members of the Breathworks team at the Manchester Buddhist Centre and Professor Willem Kuyken of Exeter University.

Breathworks is the FWBO’s very successful right livelihood practice, based in Manchester, UK, pioneers of mindfulness-based pain management and stress management courses for anyone wishing to live a richer life and feel a greater sense of initiative and confidence

The program focussed on some new research by Professor Kuyken indicating that systematic mindfulness practice is just as effective as drugs or 'talking' therapy for treating depression, and that it was actually more effective for their secondary measures such as improving quality of life.

The BBC contacted the Breathworks team to have someone leading a meditation, and had Diane Kaylor (a mitra at the Manchester Buddhist Centre) speaking about the benefits of practice.

A fuller report of the research is available on-line, for instance on the e!science news site.

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Friday, November 07, 2008

New Book from Breathworks - Living Well with Pain and Illness

The FWBO’s ‘Breathworks’ project is delighted to announce the publication of their first book, ‘Living Well With Pain and Illness’, written by Breathworks’ co-founder Vidyamala, herself a long-term sufferer of chronic pain. They say -

“The book, subtitled ‘The mindful way to free yourself from suffering’, gives a detailed summary of the principles and practice of the Breathworks programme.

"It is intended for anyone looking for new ways to live with pain and illness or other long-term difficulties. The main focus of the book is physical pain, but the mindfulness techniques are relevant to illness of any sort. They will help with managing energy and fatigue; also improve quality of life. The techniques are also relevant to mental and emotional suffering, such as stress, anxiety and depression.

“The book starts with Vidyamala's own story of living with pain. It looks at the nature of pain and describes how we can find a new relationship with it using mindfulness. It explores mindfulness and how it can bring wholeness, even if your body is injured or ill. The book then goes on to practical guidance on how to come home to your body through breath awareness and mindful movement, introduces three formal meditation practices with useful tips, and looks at how you can take mindfulness into your daily life.

“The book has been written in part in response to requests from people unable to attend a Breathworks course. It was also written with a strong sense of how Vidyamala felt when she first faced the loneliness of disability and chronic pain with few skills to help, in the hope that some of the lessons learned can help others find an easier way through their own journey with pain and illness.

Highly recommended!

Reviews and recommendations for the book are already arriving – a selection are printed below:

“The cultivation of mindfulness can make a profound difference in how we relate to pain and whether even chronic pain conditions need to turn into endless suffering and misery. This has been known over the past 2600 years, and is now being supported by studies in both medicine and neuroscience. In this book, Vidyamala makes the practice of befriending your experience through mindfulness, however unpleasant or pleasant it may be, both commonsensical and compelling. I admire her tremendously. This is a beautiful and very important book. It could save your life -- and give it back to you.”
Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D.,Professor of Medicine Emeritus, Umass Medical School and author of Full Catastrophe Living and Coming to our Senses

"The book is a moving and compelling invitation to bring a radically new way of working with the fact of our pain. It is a book of enormous tenderness and honesty, offering wise guidance on how we can live with greater ease by turning towards what we most fear about our pain and suffering."
Prof Mark Williams, Professor of Clinical Psychology, Dept of Psychiatry, University of Oxford

"Vidyamala Burch has practiced mindfulness for many years, as well as applying the practice to the relief of physical suffering, both her own and that of other people. She has now embodied the fruits of her extensive experience in a very readable and useful book. I hope that Living Well with Pain and Illness will have a wide circulation, in a world where, despite all our progress, there is still so much suffering, some of it unnecessary."
Urgyen Sangharakshita

"This is one of the most generous and empathic books I have read. Nobody with an open mind could fail to learn from it. Readers with and without pain will recognise eloquent descriptions of the traps we fall into when we struggle to avoid what we don't want in our lives."
Dr Amanda Williams, Reader in Clinical Health Psychology, University College London

There's also a review online from the Irish Times.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Respiravida: 'Breathworks' launches in Spain

Breathworks is the FWBO’s newest (and very successful) Right Livelihood business. Started by Vidyamala in Manchester, UK, they have grown to a world-wide community of trainers offering “mindfulness-based pain management and strategies for living well to anyone wishing to live a richer life and feel a greater sense of initiative and confidence”.

Now the Breathworks approach has spread to Spain and the Spanish-speaking world, with the launch of RespiraVida (literally, “breathe life”) and their website

This wasn’t easy, there being substantial barriers of distance and language to overcome. Initially Dharmakirti and Satyabhasana, two Order Members based around the FWBO’s Valencia center, travelled to England to do the two week-long residential training courses. After this, in order to qualify as Breathworks trainers, they had to run a practice course with distance monitoring – not so simple. As Satyabhasana explained to FWBO News, “this, of course, meant that we had to translate both the course manual and the CDs into Spanish, which was a fairly long but also interesting undertaking”.

She goes on to say “Since then we have run a further course at the Valencia Buddhist Centre and are about to branch out into a new venue, a local association which supports people with cancer and other serious illnesses. We are also planning to launch a distance learning course, as the demand seems to be there.

“If you’d like more information (in Spanish) we are at or e-mail us (in Spanish or English) at”.

Back in the UK, Breathworks are eagerly awaiting the November publication of Vidyamala’s book ‘Living Well with Pain and Illness: The mindful way to free yourself from suffering’. Excellent reviews are already available on the Resources page of the Breathworks website and copies may be pre-ordered there with a 5% discount and free UK postage and packing.

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Friday, May 30, 2008

London Buddhist Centre begins major building work

builders go to work on the LBCThe FWBO's London Buddhist Centre this week moved into top gear as the largest building project in its history really got underway. Over the next 8 months over UK £1,5 million will be spend transforming every floor of the building (all 6 of them!) into facilities worthy of the 21st century and the next 100 years.

Planning and preliminary works have been going on for well over a year and already ‘Phase 0’ has been completed – a major project in its own right. This entailed moving the offices out of the basement and up into ‘Bhante’s Flat’, which had lain empty for several years. Sangharakshita’s old bedroom, which he used for most of the 1990’s while living at the LBC, has been transformed into the ‘Sangharakshita Study Room’ and is now a self-contained space available for study or hire. The rest of his old flat has become beautiful new light and airy offices for the LBC team – a welcome new home after many years in the relative darkness of the basement.

carvers in India create the LBC's new fountainWork on the project is multi-facetted – as the builders smash up the old concrete flooring in the LBC basement, Aloka, in Norfolk, is working on a large new painting which will be the shrine backdrop in the new meditation room. And in far-away India, carvers are shaping a stone fountain that will bring a touch of natural beauty into the basement waiting area. This is scheduled to be shipped in July and installed in time for their opening in mid-September.

The biggest challenge of the project is to convert the basement into the new ‘Breathing Space’, the LBC’s flourishing programme for health and wellbeing.

Aloka shows off work so far on his new painting for the LBC's basementAn indication of the success of the Breathing Space project – even before its new premises are ready – is their waiting list, currently standing at 65 for their next MBCT course. They are looking at ways to offer more courses in response to the demand. As well as MBCT, Breathing Space will offer programs for carers – ‘Caring for the Carers’; also Relapse Prevention; Meditation for Depression, Meditation for Addiction, and Bereavement courses – plus training in all the above for future trainers and counsellors. Breathing Space looks set to add a valuable and much–appreciated dimension to the LBC’s work.

You can read recent articles about the Breathing Space project here - in The Times about addiction courses; in the Guardian about carers retreats, and a short BBC film about the LBC's work with people suffering from depression.

Finally there is a more general interview with Futurebuilders England, a UK government investment agency which has provided some of the funding of the project.

FWBO News wishes the LBC well on what is likely to prove a busy and demanding time - and looks forward eagerly to seeing the new facilities!

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Breathworks in 2007

is an FWBO Right Livelihood based in Manchester, UK. They specialise in mindfulness-based pain management – specifically, in “offering strategies for living well to anyone suffering from chronic pain wishing to live a richer life and feel a greater sense of initiative and confidence”.

Sona, one of the Breathworks directors, has sent us a report on their activities in 2007 – a rich and expansive year for them. Read on for the highlights, or click here for the full report with pictures.

Over the course of 2007, four training retreats took the community of Breathworks trainers to 14 fully qualified trainers with 23 half way through their training by the end of the year. For the first time they led a training retreat outside the UK – specifically, for health professionals in New Zealand, on the spectacular Coromandel peninsula. Other international events included a weekend workshop in Stockholm, Sweden, and a conference on ‘Integrating Mindfulness-Based Interventions into Medicine, Health Care, and Society’ at the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts.

In the UK Breathworks trainers are now running courses in Cardiff, Brighton, Bristol, Stroud, Blackburn, East London and Leeds as well as Manchester. Narapa, representing Breathworks at the British Pain Society’s Pain Management Programme conference in Southampton in September, was expecting to run a short workshop for 20 or so people, but over a 100 turned up much to his surprise! Another important development was the introduction of distance learning courses. This makes the Breathworks’ approach available to people who want one to one coaching, as well as to those who are too ill to get to a class. We hope to expand this aspect of the business in the future.

Narapa's main focus is to develop Breathworks as a viable commercial enterprise (we are a Community Interest Company, known in the UK as a ‘3rd Sector’ or ‘not-for-profit’ organisation). He has been developing a proposal to run ‘Continuing Professional Development’ courses at Salford University. This will be a very important development as it will allow Breathworks’ trainers to offer training to many different types of health professionals as all, or most, health professionals working in the public sector have to maintain their level of competence by attending courses every year.

For the second year running, Breathworks met up with others who train trainers to deliver mindfulness in the fields of health and stress - a UK Network of Mindfulness Trainers. Apart from Breathworks all the other participants are connected with MBSR (‘Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction’) and/or MBCT (‘Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy’ – see FWBO News’ August 2007 survey of this complex field). The meeting was hosted by Mark Williams at the Warneford Hospital in Oxford. The purpose was to try to bring some kind of standards to how mindfulness in taught and practised by trainers, as well as sharing information about how the different groups and institutions are developing their work. Breathworks will be hosting the next meeting in Manchester in November 2008.

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapists have a magazine called ‘Frontline’ and in November they featured a substantial article on Mindfulness and pain management, with Breathworks having the highest profile. The cover image was of a huge Buddha which seemed to symbolise how much interest there is in mindfulness as the Buddha’s teaching within mainstream circles these days.

Vidyamala’s Book
Probably the most exciting event for Breathworks in 2007 was when Piatkus (now an imprint of Little, Brown Publishers) signed a contract with Vidyamala to publish her book. She had been working on a book about the Breathworks’ approach to mindfulness based pain management for two years, being helped substantially by Vishvapani for the past year. The manuscript will be with the publisher this January when it will go into the production process ready for delivery to bookshops in November 2008. Having her book available will not only make Breathworks and Vidyamala better known, but, more importantly, it will bring our work to those suffering long term pain and illness, as well as stress, in places where we have no trainers, as well as to those who are too ill to be able to attend a course. Jon Kabat-Zinn has kindly offered to have a very positive quote about Vidyamala and Breathworks on the front cover.

Given that Breathworks is run by a team of directors who only work part-time, Sona concludes by saying "We are very happy with what we managed to achieve in 2007".

All the above is just a summary, click here for the full report with pictures or visit Breathworks.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Breathing Space - the LBC’s Compassion in Action project - wins major grant

The London Buddhist Centre (LBC) has been awarded a £50,000 grant by the City Bridge Trust, which gives money from the City of London to charitable projects benefiting the inhabitants of Greater London.

This grant is for accessibility works in the basement, where the LBC will run its Breathing Space health and wellbeing programme. Specifically, this will include a lift going from the ground floor and a disabled toilet in the basement. This is – as far as the LBC is aware – the biggest single grant it has ever received. The work will create a beautiful new venue for courses that help people who've struggled with depression, addiction, stress and chronic pain to look after their own mental health. This will also give them the opportunity of making the LBC much more flexible – so they can attract a more diverse range of people.

Maitreyabandhu, Breathing Space Project Director, said: “It’s a fantastic endorsement from a very well respected grant-making body for what we are trying to achieve with our Breathing Space programme – helping prevent people from relapsing into depression and addiction, and reaching out to more people in East London.”

The creation of the new Breathing Space in the basement of the LBC is just one part of the programme of building works taking place next year, ahead of the LBC’s 30th anniversary.

The LBC team is currently having intensive fortnightly progress meetings with its architect and team of building experts. It is also carrying out extensive health and safety planning. The target for the building work to start is Spring 2008, with completion by the end of that year.

The LBC will be holding a Mandala Evening on Thursday 6 December at 7.15pm, which will be a chance for people to see all the finalised plans – including drawings and computer generated photos – for the building programme.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Mindfulness for everything?

Click here to read Vishvapani’s survey of the growing field of mindfulness-based therapies and the place of the FWBO therein.

He sets the scene by saying “The faculty of mindfulness—broadly defined as non-judgmental present-moment awareness—has always been a key element of the Buddhist path; and in recent years psychologists and healthcare professionals have been recognizing its value for people experiencing conditions ranging from stress and depression to addiction, chronic pain and ill health. A natural crossover exists between this growing medical interest in mindfulness and the skills that FWBO meditators and teachers have developed in their years of practice.”

And he asks – “So how are people from the FWBO engaging with MBTs, and what issues are emerging as they do so?”

A fascinating and inspiring read – one of the many facets of the great adventure that is the Dharma coming to the West.

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