My blog

I like to blog about things that interest me. Mainly to do with mindfulness, health, women and Buddhism.

Mindfulness for Women day retreat at Medispa, Masterton, NZ March 5th

On Sunday 5th March I am heading to Changes Medispa in Masterton to lead a day retreat for women.

My sister, Lisa Burch, runs the Gladstone Inn near Carterton. I stayed with her back in January - delighting in her company, the amazing pub and scenery.

One day she had an appointment at Changes Medispa with the warm and friendly Katie, and I decided to tag along for a relaxing treatment. Katie I were chatting and came up with the idea for a mindfulness day in her manor spa where I could teach meditation, tai chi and yoga; and Katie would put on a delicious, healthy lunch.

We decided on the date - Sunday 5 March - when I will be back visiting Lisa. We’d love any woman who could do with a day of R&R to come along.

I’ll teach ways to:
  • Experience whole-body breathing to reduce stress and improve well-being
  •  Learn to work with thoughts so you are in charge of your mind, rather than your thoughts being in charge of you
  • Learn some gentle stretches and movements to help reduce stress and feel more flexible (these can be done by anyone regardless of physical fitness or health)
  • Learn how to switch off the flight/fight mode and kick start the calm/connect mode of the autonomic nervous system. I’ll tell you about scientific evidence that shows how this will improve your health and well-being.
The main aim of the day is to give you some chill out time as well as some practical skills to take away. These will be around breath awareness, mindful movement and meditation.  You’ll then be able to integrate these into your daily life. They won’t take much time. If you’re a busy woman (and who isn’t these days!) you’ll be particularly keen on the three minute breathing space – but I’ll teach you longer mindfulness practices as well. Like everything else in life: the more you put in the more you’ll benefit.

In 2016 I published MINDFULNESS FOR WOMEN that I co-authored with Claire Irvin. The day will be based on this book and will also draw extensively on the experience I’ve gained over 30+ years of meditation and mindfulness.

I founded Breathworks in 2001, which is now an internationally successful mindfulness organisation. We’ve got teachers in more than 25 countries worldwide.

But, for this day, I am delighted to be back in NZ offering my skills to kiwi women. Hope you can come along and do tell your friends.

Date: 5 March 2017
Times: 10 am – 5 pm
Cost: $250 including delicious lunch

To book: contact Katie at Changes Medispa on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or tel: 06 370 1971
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Vidyamala Burch

30 day mindfulness and meditation challenge for women!

Mindfulness for Women online course March 1-31 2017   

De-clutter Your Mind, Simplify Your Life, Find Time to 'Be'

I'm really excited to be leading a month-long online 'Mindfulness for Women' course through March. It's based on the book I co-wrote with Journalist Claire Irvin: 'Mindfulness for Women'.

The course will be structured around developing body awareness so you can feel more comfortable in your own skin; working with thoughts and emotions so you can turn down the internal radio; and learning how to be kinder to yourself and others.

I’ll include bits of Claire’s diary that feature in the ‘Mindfulness for Women’ book. Claire hadn’t meditated before we worked on this project so she gamely kept a diary of her efforts which are accessible, often hilarious, and moving. Here’s her diary of her first attempt to meditate:


Claire’s Diary Week One: Body Scan

It’s 9.30 on a dark early-spring evening. My husband Stuart is away and I’ve finally got Amelie, six, to go to bed (she will take any opportunity to delay bedtime, and an absent parent is as good an excuse as any). On a normal weekday I’d be starting to think about bed myself (early bedtimes are the only way I cope with the hectic pace of my life), but tonight I’m a bit wired, and also secretly relishing the quiet in the house. I think guiltily of my promise to Vidyamala to start my mindfulness journey, but quickly push the thought away. I sit down in front of the TV and am suddenly filled with resolve (plus, I won’t lie, there’s nothing on telly and the idea of lying down is very appealing). I decamp upstairs to my bed and press play on my meditation recording, and Vidyamala’s calm, gently lilting voice fills the room.

I immediately feel myself relax. This isn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be . . . I listen for a few more seconds and then get distracted by a noise in the garden. It’s a cat, by the sounds of it, climbing up the side of the shed. I resist the urge to get up and look. But it makes me wonder if I’ve locked up properly outside, and it’s a couple of moments before I can pull myself back to the meditation.

I cringe a bit at the mention of my belly. I hate this word and, like many women, hate focusing on my tummy at all. But as I feel my breath echo in my pelvic floor and my lower back, I begin to feel like a star pupil. I can do this! To say I’m pleased with myself is an understatement. I hear another noise outside, in the front this time, and I tense up again and wonder what it is.

Vidyamala is now asking me to relax my face. Oops! My face is very tense. Like, really tense. I relax it: my jaw, my teeth, the set of my mouth. As soon as I relax one part of it, another tenses up again. I get distracted thinking about the irony of having to work harder at being relaxed. I make myself laugh, then realise I’ve missed the next few moments of the meditation. Must do better next time.

Afterwards, I decide I should go to bed. I notice how much more relaxed I am. Despite Stuart being away, which normally makes me edgy, I sleep like a baby.

The course won’t take up much of your time – the meditations are only ten minutes long and I’ll be suggesting lots of ways to integrate mindfulness and kindness into your daily life. My aim is to give you loads of easily accessible tips to take some of the stress out of your life. And if you haven’t got much stress, the course will help you feel even more chilled!

The course structure is an email a day with links to eight different meditations over the month, and the opportunity to chat to me and ask questions over the month.

March 8th sees International Women’s Day which I blogged about last year. I love that there is a day where women can celebrate all we have achieved as well as face up to some of the issues we face in the modern world. I blogged about some of these issues after the global Women’s Marches just a few week’s ago. The uprising of women’s voices all over the world was astonishing and I’d love this Mindfulness for Women course to be a way we can keep the momentum going as we stand up in the world and fulfill our potential, individually and collectively.

You can hear a radio interview I did on Mindfulness for Women with Brian Kelly on Coast FM, NZ here

VM interviewed Brian Kelly Coast FM Jan 2017 reduced

You can read an extract from the first chapter here

If you are a Mum then this is an extract for you

Here are some other blogs re the book:

I really hope you’ll join me for this fun challenge. Tell your friends and let’s get together to change our minds to change the world!

Vidyamala Burch

Engage. Connect. Act: Sisters - Now Is The Time To Stand Tall

I started writing this blog soon after Donald Trump was elected President of the United States.

Like many, I feared the rise of nationalism, hate-based ideologies and oppression of minorities. I wanted to speak out about the need for women (and other ‘at-risk’ groups) to stand together – to unify and find a powerful voice in the new world we find ourselves in.  For various reasons I never finished the blog (life intervened), but it seems I was not alone and in the subsequent months we have seen the emergence of a phenomenal up-rising culminating in the ‘Women’s March’ on Washington that took place on January 21st, the day after the inauguration of Donald Trump; and the partner ‘Sister Marches’ that happened all around the world attracting millions of peaceful marchers.  

As I watched these extraordinary gatherings unfold on the news and media I was astounded and moved to tears.

Social media can be used for ill – think ‘fake news’, bullying, irrational tweets from Trump; but it can also be used for good - which is what we are seeing with the rise of the Women’s Marches.

It started with one woman, Teresa Shook of Hawaii. On the night after Donald Trump’s election she went on facebook and posted a message. She wrote the first thing that came to mind: “I think we should march”.  After getting a response to her post from a single woman in the chatroom, Shook created a private Facebook event page for the march and invited a few dozen online friends to join before going to sleep. Overnight, a link to Shook's event page was posted in Pantsuit Nation and other groups.

"When I woke, up it had gone ballistic," Shook said. Women from across the United States contacted Shook and began to guide the effort. Now organizers credit Shook’s quiet plea with igniting what was the largest demonstration in the nation's capital related to a presidential election.    

Out of such small beginnings has come this global phenomenon, which would be unlikely to have occurred without social media. This is something to truly celebrate – the remarkable women behind the Women’s Marches harnessed the tools at their fingertips – I take this as inspiration to never be silent in the face of violence, bullying and pain.

Women have gained an enormous amount in the West over recent decades but there is still so much more to do. And women in the developing world are still often painfully discriminated against.

In my book ‘Mindfulness for Women’ I list some scary stats:

  • Women account for two-thirds of all working hours and produce half the world’s food, but earn only 10 per cent of global income and own just 1 per cent of the world’s property.

  • Though women make up half the global population, they represent 70 per cent of the world’s poor.
  • Women and girls aged fifteen to forty-four are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than they are from war, cancer, malaria and traffic accidents.
  • At least one in three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex or abused in her lifetime.
  • Between 1.5 million and 3 million girls and women die each year because of gender-based violence.
  • Between 700,000 and 4 million girls and women are sold into prostitution each year.
  • Ninety-nine per cent of maternal deaths occur in developing countries, with women dying of pregnancy-related causes at a rate of one every minute.
  • Women account for nearly two-thirds of the world’s 780million people who cannot read.
  • Forty-one million girls worldwide are still denied a primary education.
  • Globally, only one in five parliamentarians is a woman*

Many people are campaigning brilliantly on behalf of women and girls  - think Michelle Obama and her work with 'Let Girls Learn'; and Malala Yousafzai. We may not think we are as talented or brilliant as they are – indeed they are remarkable. But we can all play a part and use our voice in whatever way we can.

History shows us time and again that huge change comes about through millions of tiny acts. The achievements of mass movements such as the Civil Rights movement in the USA in the 1960s were the result of millions of tiny, almost imperceptible acts that led to society becoming convulsed by change. Similarly, the suffragettes campaigned together to get women the vote. They succeeded in the UK in 1918, and now, less than 100 years later, women lead nations.

When asked ‘How does social change happen?’ in the context of the overcoming of apartheid, the South African social rights activist Desmond Tutu replied: ‘It is because individuals are connected – you and you and you – this becomes a coalition, which becomes a movement and this is how apartheid was overcome.’

This is what we are seeing with the rising of such movements as the ‘Women’s and Sister Marches’ all over the world. And let's make sure the momentum is maintained. Indeed, the organisers of the Womens March have already launched their next campaign: 10 actions in 100 days with the rallying cry: "Thank you to the millions of people around the world who, on January 21, came together to raise our voices. But our march forward does not end here. Now is the time to get our friends, family and community together and MAKE HISTORY"

Engage. Connect. Act. Such a great thing to celebrate.  Let’s keep it up. 

* For references for all the stats in this blog see Mindfulness for Women