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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My name is Alison Gill and the first four decades of my life were pretty much full of certainty, predictability and activity; I planned for the future and apart from a few regrets I didn’t dwell much on my past. This pattern was what I had come to expect out of life and I never gave it much thought. Then in 2013, one of my children went from being a normal healthy and happy child to using a wheelchair, all within six weeks. He could only walk with extreme pain and difficulty, and could not even bear the weight of a bed sheet. “Mummy, my wrists are too sore to wipe away my tears.” He was 5 years old.

He was diagnosed with a chronic inflammatory joint disease – toes, ankles, knees, hips, fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck, jaw. Chronic means incurable and I could not wrap my head around the fact that in the 21st century there was no cure for my precious little boy. Doctors and medicine are in the business of solving, treating and curing: chronic illness almost embarrasses health professionals - they didn’t really know what to say, neither did well-meaning family and friends. 

Watching a child in physical pain, day in, day out, with no end in sight, has been the hardest thing I have ever had to do.  For the next few years I literally tortured myself with resistance, unacceptance and anger, simultaneously clinging to the (healthy) past and fearing the (painful) future – was all hugely negative and exhausting, and furthermore it took me to a place called despair. 

It was during an Internet trawl in the middle of another sleepless night that I stumbled upon Vidyamala Burch’s work and I remember tears falling as I recognised elements of myself in her story. 

It is not an understatement to say that that night changed my life. Up until then I had no understanding that I could have a different relationship to the unwanted in my life and to realise that I could in fact ‘live well’ with pain and illness was nothing short of revolutionary. Mindfulness has given me the tools to live with my circumstances rather than against them. It has taken me to a spacious place of acceptance and awareness where I can appreciate the multifaceted and richness of life and with all it brings - beauty, joy, pain, loss.

The reason I chose Breathworks is primarily because the teaching is birthed from a place of lived experience. And Vidyamala’s heart’s desire to meet and alleviate suffering with gentleness and compassion is a watermark running through all of Breathworks – values, staff, tutors, methodologies and course materials etc. 

I completed an online Breathworks mindfulness course and in 2019 I began my teacher training with the deepest desire to help people live better with pain, illness and/or stress. I simply could not have begun this teacher training without a bursary and I am immensely grateful to all who generously give to enable myself and others the opportunity to do this. Thank you Breathworks for showing me that there is another way.

- Alison

Alison wanted to let us all know that her son is now 12, doing well and no longer in a wheelchair once his illness become under better control with medication.