The Breathworks Foundation

Making mindfulness accessible

We are a registered charity, with a mission is to make mindfulness accessible to everyone. Being an organisation that gives back has been important to us from the very beginning. Our Founder Vidyamala was living on benefits for many years before she was able to secure funding through a disability grant to start Breathworks. We know that many who benefit the most from our services are least able to afford it, so we are committed to help those in need through bursaries, scholarships, free resources and other funding initiatives.

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So here we are in 2020. There’s something about the symmetry of this date that I enjoy, and I feel excited about the opportunities we have at Breathworks to do all we can to make the world a better place.  

I fear this decade may be turbulent for the world with climate change and political uncertainty in many places; but individuals doing what they can to open their hearts to one another and feel connected to life in all its forms can do remarkable good. If enough of us act kindly and wisely we can create a movement for change, I truly believe this. 

I’ve always thought that grass roots revolution is the best way to bring about lasting systemic change and that the most revolutionary acts of all are awareness and kindness. For example, if enough of us change our habits around consumption and greed – choosing to lead a simpler life; then this would be a huge and generous act of kindness for the planet.

Awareness and kindness training are at the heart of all we do at Breathworks and I am just as passionate about it now as I was 20 years ago when I first dreamed of creating a mindfulness organisation. 

It was 2000 when I got a small grant from the Millennium Commission from a fund aimed at disabled people who wanted to contribute to society. It was called the ‘Give it a Go’ award and this is what I decided to do. To ‘Give it a Go’ at designing and running mindfulness courses for others living with pain and illness. I had no idea if I could do it physically, emotionally or practically. It was a plunge into the un-known emerging from several years being predominantly housebound with my spinal condition. 

I was delighted with the Millennium Commission panel believed in my vision and gave me the grant (about £8,000) and I could tentatively test my abilities, strength and confidence to ‘Give it a Go’. The rest is history.

One of my main motivations was that I wanted to do something for other people. My life had become narrow and restricted, with so much of my energy oriented inwards to try and manage my basic needs. This was necessary in many ways as things were so difficult; but I intuited that my life would be easier – certainly more fulfilling –  if I could find a way to broaden my horizons. This indeed turned out to be the case, although I wouldn’t want to suggest it was easy or straightforward. But gradually, I found a way to focus outwards a little more and it is immensely rewarding to know that Breathworks has helped many thousands of people over the subsequent 20 years.

2019 marked the 10th anniversary of the establishment of The Breathworks Foundation – the charity we established to specifically fundraise to enable people with limited financial means to access mindfulness and Breathworks programmes. This is also very dear to my heart having lived through so many years of hardship myself. It’s hugely rewarding that we now award about £20,000 worth of bursaries each year to many different people who would not otherwise have had the opportunity to embrace the life-changing skills of awareness and kindness and join the revolution! 

But we still turn away many applicants as our ‘pot’ is no-where near large enough at this stage. To help this we have dedicated 2020 to be the year of fundraising challenges.

Next week I am going to blog about our vision for this. The aim is for ‘20 challenges for 2020’ with 20 different people (or groups of people) doing a sponsored challenge to raise funds. For example, I am going to swim 20 lengths a day of my local pool for 20 consecutive days. This will help me with my fitness and well-being, it will be fun (kind of!) and hopefully my friends and others will sponsor me. It comes back to the grass-roots idea I wrote of above. If enough people raise even modest amounts, then between us we can achieve something great.

Get your thinking caps on and next week I’ll tell you more.

- Vidyamala Burch