Pain Opens a Door

Mindfulness teacher Vidyamala Burch opens up about her firsthand experience with the power of mindfulness and compassion to support those living with chronic pain.

Adobe Stock/ Benjavisa Ruangvaree

Vidyamala Burch was 25 when she first practiced mindfulness. Two years earlier, she had been in a car crash that caused the second spinal fracture she had experienced within 10 years. At 25, after a physical breakdown from pushing herself too hard, she was back in the hospital. “It was a total dark night of the soul,” she says. “I got obsessed with getting through until morning.” She told herself, “You just have to live this moment, and this one, and this one,” and moment by moment, she reached the morning. “I was one person before that and I’ve been another person since.”

With no way to fix her spine or stop her pain, the physicians sent a hospital chaplain who led Burch in a meditation. He asked her to recall a time and place where she felt happy, and she thought of a time before her injuries when she climbed the Southern Alps of New Zealand. “I went from feeling lost and desperate to feeling connected to these very happy, beautiful times,” she says.

“Rather than feeling like this pain is just ruining my life it’s more like this pain has opened a door…