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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Chris Bu, NHS Psychiatry Trainee Doctor and Breathworks teacher in training, shares what it's like to be working on the frontline and how he is finding his mindfulness practice so helpful: learning how best to look after his own well-being so he can look after others effectively too.

I count myself extraordinarily lucky to have been able attend the Introductory Teacher Training retreat (TTi) at Taraloka at the end of February this year, just before lockdown measures were introduced. I know that the other retreatants share this same gratitude because we are still regularly in touch, meeting online every Sunday where we not only guide practices together, but also provide peer support and check in with one another. With the current social distancing measures, I’ve found it more and more important to maintain nourishing connections. In my work as an NHS Psychiatry Trainee Doctor, checking in with colleagues and seniors is an important part of my week. Breathworks teacher training has given me an even wider network of peer support, as well as having my mentor, Andrea walking the path alongside me.

Chris and others at the Breathworks Teacher Training Retreat, February 2020

At the end of Taraloka I had set myself the intention of deepening my own practice, being open to whatever shows up, and the COVID virus really threw down the gauntlet in this regard. Would I be able to maintain my own wellbeing effectively, let alone others around me? There is a certain familiarity between the peaceful walks around Taraloka and the now sparsely populated streets of the Liverpool docks where I live, and an invitation to continue the enquiry further into my own mindfulness journey.

I was struck by how much of TTi was relevant to my clinical practice. I now catch myself noticing what kind of listener I am being during a consultation. Is my approach 'distracted', 'self-referential' or perhaps 'problem-solving' orientated? I am still exploring what it might mean to be fully present when working with patients. I also notice similarities between history taking and practicing the Breathworks 'Enquiry' process.

The very first TTi session focused on the important concept of different learning styles, covering the simple idea that different things work for different people. This simple but powerful idea reminds me to be creative and think laterally. As a professional, it was always important for me to find a robust and well-recognised teacher training pathway, and TTi demonstrated just this. It was different to other courses that I have been on, because it was more about deepening and integrating the Mindfulness for Health and Stress courses, than it was about 'learning' to deliver something. Additionally, I am reassured that Breathworks was one of the founding members of the British Association of Mindfulness-Based Approaches (BAMBA), knowing that we are working to a national benchmark with other academic institutions, and that the accreditation does not come lightly.

Lastly I also just want to mention the additional work that Breathworks has been doing during the COVID situation, in going out of their way to develop the free 'The Quiet Place' resources for healthcare professionals –which I’ve been able to signpost to friends and colleagues as well as dipping into myself. The shorter practices in particular are helpful in punctuating my day. I am playing around with these portable practices at various transition points throughout the day, such as in between clinic patients or the moment after I’ve parked my car. For me, the weekly live meditation on Tuesday evenings is an especially helpful chance to come together and connect. In true Breathworks fashion, I note that just as Vidyamala takes great care to pace herself in offering what she can to the community, I’ll also try and remember to do the same and pace myself.

Chris Bu

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