Vidyamala Burch OBE is a mindfulness and compassion teacher, coach, speaker and award-winning author. She developed the world’s first Mindfulness-based Pain & Illness Management (MBPM) programme and went on to co-found the mindfulness organisation Breathworks. Her evidence-based approach has reached over 100,000 people around the world and is recognised by the NHS and health boards globally. Through her work, she hopes to pass on the tools that have helped her to reclaim a full, happy and meaningful life.
Hi, I’m Vidyamala. Today, I am lucky to have a rich and happy life, but the journey has been long, slow and at times very tough. At age 17, I sustained spinal injuries that required multiple surgeries and left me with a complex back condition, chronic pain and partial paraplegia. After experiencing despondency, anger and hopelessness, I discovered mindfulness as a way to ease the mental torment associated with the physical pain. Soon I was meditating everyday, and the results were truly life changing and transformative.
I’ve spent the subsequent years exploring my mind with all the depth and commitment I can manage. As a Kiwi, I’m a born nature lover and mountaineer; I like to imagine that I have now become a mountaineer of the inner world, where the peaks are infinite and the vistas awe-inspiring.
My mission from the start has been to inspire and empower people to thrive by unlocking the tools and knowledge to reduce suffering. As someone who lives with a disability and chronic pain, I hope that my life experience can help others like me to harness the power of their minds and hearts so they too can have fulfilling and meaningful lives.
I founded the mindfulness organisation Breathworks in 2001 with Gary Hennessey and Sona Fricker and today I’m proud to see the organisation reaching thousands of people every year with courses, retreats and teacher trainings (with now over 600 mindfulness teachers across 35 countries).
My name, given to me when I was ordained into the Triratna Buddhist Order in 1995, means ‘Garland of Wisdom’. This is something I continue to aspire to; alongside passing on the knowledge of mindfulness and compassion, my goal has been to make these teachings accessible to everyone, so that more people can benefit from experiencing a more meaningful life, whatever the circumstances. To help fulfill this vision, Breathworks gives away a third of its places on courses as bursaries and scholarships.
I speak at seminars, deliver keynotes and host workshops for organisations in the corporate, health and charity fields and the public sector. I also love working more intimately with individuals and groups through my coaching in which I aim to provide guidance and practical steps to finding empowerment and transformation.
Vidyamala's story is also available on audio here.
Awarded OBE for Services to Wellbeing and Pain Management as Co-founder of Breathworks in 2022
Awarded an Honorary Membership from The British Pain Society for outstanding outstanding work for the alleviation of pain in 2018
Named one of the most influential disabled people in the UK by The Shaw Trust’s Power List in 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022
Mindfulness for Health (2013) book was awarded first prize in Popular Medicine by the British Medical Association Books Awards and named the best self-help book in its category by health professionals in the UK’s Reading Well Scheme
Winner of the Millennium Commission Grant (2000) to develop a project to benefit the community in the new millennium (this project developed into Breathworks)