Bangor University - Introduction to Mindfulness-Based Pain and Illness Management

Date(s): Monday 30 November 2015 Time: 12:00 to 14:00
Course Format: 2 x 3 day workshop Teacher/Trainer(s): Vidyamala Burch & David Shannon
Price: £620 for both workshops

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Location Details:
Trigonos Residential Education Centre
Plas Bala Deulyn
LL54 6BW
United Kingdom


This is a residential event. This means that you will need to stay at the venue at which the course is being held for the duration of the event.

Set in a glorious location within the Snowdonia National Park in its own grounds on the shore of a lake and looking up to the mountains. It is deeply peaceful and inspirational to spend time in these beautiful surroundings.

This course is for anyone wanting to learn how to apply mindfulness and compassion to chronic pain and other long-term health conditions. Although we call our course Mindfulness-Based Pain and Illness Management, we’ve always included practices that help to develop kindness and compassion, giving the course a dual approach to the suffering involved in long-term pain and illness. In these two workshops we’ll introduce both of these approaches, concentrating on mindfulness in the first workshop and compassion in the second.

‘Mindfulness-Based Pain Management (MBPM) is the most comprehensive, in-depth, scientifically up-to- date and user-friendly approach to learning the how of living with chronic pain and reclaiming one’s life that I know of…I admire Vidyamala Burch tremendously. Her approach could save your life and give it back to you’.


Part 1: Mindfulness for Pain and Illness

30 November, 1st, 2nd December 2015 (Block 1: 2.5days)

Part 2: Compassion for Pain and Illness

4, 5, 6th April, 2016 (Block 2: 2.5days)

Course teachers:

Guest Teacher - Vidyamala Burch

Vidyamala discovered meditation when she was taught a visualization exercise by a hospital chaplain in 1985 after seriously injuring her spine. This stimulated a great curiosity about the power of the mind and heart as a tool she could harness to help her manage the pain and disability she experienced due to her spinal disability. She spent five years living in a Buddhist retreat centre gaining intensive experience of mindfulness and meditation. In 2003 she co-founded Breathworks, a Community Interest Company focused on offering courses and teacher training in mindfulness and compassion. There are now Breathworks' trainers in over 25 countries.

In 2008 Vidyamala published "Living well with Pain and Illness – the mindful way to free yourself from suffering" and in 2012 co-authored Mindfulness for Health with Danny Penman. This won first prize in the BMA book awards 2014 in the 'Popular Medicine' category – clinical books aimed at the general public. Both books are published in multiple languages. She is currently completing Mindfulness for Women, which will be published in February 2016. She has also published a number of guided meditation CDs and DVDs.

Vidyamala teaches and speaks internationally in both her Buddhist and Breathworks' roles. She specializes in mindfulness and compassion retreats and workshops.

David Shannon

David has been teaching mindfulness since 2006 and has completed formal MBSR/MBCT teacher training with the Institute for Mindfulness-Based Approaches. David worked with the CMRP team as their Masters Programme Lead but has now returned to work in Ireland as a psychologist in psycho-oncology, where he regularly facilitates MBSR and MBCT for people affected by cancer.

David's interest in meditation developed alongside an interest in psychological aspects of end-of-life care. As a result, he worked as a care assistant in palliative care for four years whilst completing an MSc in Consciousness and Transpersonal Psychology at Liverpool John Moores' University. Following this he worked as a research assistant in University College Cork before being accepted onto the MSc in Counselling Psychology in Trinity College, Dublin.

Accepting the pain, reducing the suffering

When a person is living with pain or illness it is common to become trapped in aversive and avoidant states of mind, often experienced as a generalised 'mass' of suffering, accompanied by feelings of frustration, weariness and general negativity. We make a distinction between what we call primary and secondary suffering. Primary suffering is the pain or other unpleasant physical sensations caused by illness. Secondary suffering is made up of all the ways that we react to - resist - the primary suffering, physically, emotionally and mentally.

Relating to pain and illness: fighting, losing, and befriending

Most people with long-term conditions find that this secondary suffering is the cause of the majority of their distress, and it usually manifests within the two broad extremes of avoidance (blocking) and overwhelm (drowning). Most people cycle through these two poles, running away from unpleasant experience until they become exhausted, and then falling into a loss of perspective and low mood. Eventually they pick themselves up, and before they know it they are back into blocking.

MBPM helps people to get out of this cycle by learning how to accept the primary and reduce the secondary suffering – leading to the overall experience of suffering being lessened, often dramatically.

Coming back to the body

When the body hurts an instinctive reaction is to try to get away from it, to distract attention from it, to be somewhere else. While this works pretty well as a short-term strategy, in the long-term it's unhelpful, as distancing ourselves from one type of experience also entails distancing ourselves from other experiences, including pleasure, joy, love etc. 'Returning' to the body through such practices as the body scan enables us to come back to a sense of wholeness.


Over the years we have come to consider the breath to be a vital tool in working with pain and other unpleasant symptoms of illness. If one is aware of the breath as felt sensations in the body one is immediately having a present-moment embodied experience. The breath can also be a powerful way of managing pain and other unpleasant symptoms, by 'breathing into' the unpleasant sensations and so softening resistance to them, undercutting secondary suffering.

Mindful movement

Many people living with pain or illness find themselves trapped in a downward spiral of loss of movement and motivation, which leads to weakened muscles and joints, and therefore to more pain or other symptoms. To reverse this cycle it is important to gain confidence in moving, leading to a gradual increase of fitness, flexibility and stamina. The emphasis in our mindful movement is on the quality of awareness, and we have learned that reading a few well-chosen poems in between the movements helps people to avoid the sense of 'doing exercise', and instead to have a sense of allowing the body to feel its way into movement. To quote a poem well known to mindfulness practitioners: "You just have to let the body love what it loves".

Who can attend?

The applications will be assessed on an individual basis. Anyone who has an interest in pain and illness Management, whether as a professional working in a clinical setting or an individual wishing to attend the course for personal reasons will find the course stimulating and useful. People who already teach mindfulness would also find the course an extremely helpful addition to their training.

Please read Mindfulness for Health: A practical guide to relieving pain, reducing stress and restoring wellbeing by Vidyamala Burch before coming on the course.

Learning Objectives

At the completion of this module participants will

  • be able to apply the principles and practices of MBPM to their own condition
  • be familiar with current research on the Breathworks MBPM course
  • gain an understanding of how mindfulness helps those with chronic pain or other long-term health conditions

In addition, mindfulness teachers will learn how to integrate the ideas and specific practices of MBPM into their teaching

For more information and to book please click here