Triratna News

Developing Mindfulness in Wales

On Thu, 12 December, 2019 - 13:06
Sadayasihi's picture

Vishvapani is a writer, teacher of Buddhism and meditation, and a trainer in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR/MBCT) through Mindfulness in Action. He’s also an Associate of Breathworks Mindfulness and of The Mindfulness Initiative, supporting the Mindfulness All Party Parliamentary Group in the UK parliament and advocating mindfulness to the Welsh Government.

Here he gives us an update on what he’s been working on, particularly in relation to developing mindfulness teaching in Wales in collaboration with the Welsh Government. 

“In March this year Chris Ruane MP brokered a meeting with the Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, which allowed us to commence a series of projects to develop mindfulness provision in some of the sectors that fall within the purview of the Welsh Government. I don’t want to overstate what has been achieved, but this engagement with government has made a big difference, and I am not aware anything quite like this happening elsewhere.

An important context is the Welsh Government’s radical political agenda. A key is the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act 2015 which states that all actions of Welsh Government bodies must take place according to specified criteria that include sustainability, long-term thinking, the wellbeing of the people involved and community engagement. This creates a ready response to mindfulness practices and associated approaches. That said, they haven’t offered funding. 

More specifically:  

  • The new Welsh schools curriculum, to be introduced by 2022 gives a central role to Health and Wellbeing. This is an open door for mindfulness in Education, and Liz Williams has done tremendous work to capitalise on this. There is enthusiastic engagement from across the education system and tremendous potential.
    Read a full account here.
  • Things have moved more slowly in Health, where the issues are more complex, but some senior people have been helping us. Becca Crane has been leading along with Rob Callen Davies, the MBCT lead in Aneuerin Bevan Health Board (Gwent), which is one of the best examples of good practice with mindfulness in the whole UK.
    My assessment is that there’s potential from a significant breakthrough beyond what we’ve see elsewhere in the UK, but it hasn’t happened yet and it will take time and continued hard work to move forward gradually.
    Read more here.
  • For several years Rachel Lilley of Aberystwyth University has been training senior civil servants in a course that combines mindfulness with Behavioural Insights.
    This is another key part of the initiative.
  • On 21st November we held a conference in Cardiff, which I chaired and largely organised, attended by 140 people that included many public sector leaders. This went well, generating a lot of interest and excitement. 
    There’s a short account of the conference here.
  • Mark Drakeford spoke for around 25 minutes. Mark is a very serious man and he gave the conference three challenges for the development of mindfulness in Wales:
    # Mindfulness in Wales needs to be based on evidence.
    # It needs to focus on individuals not in isolation, but in relation to others. This ‘social model of mindfulness’ leads us to look at people’s  relationships, which includes the model of distributed leadership that the Welsh Government intends to follow.
    # And it must pay attention to the causes as well as the consequences of social distress. This means mobilising people to work collaboratively to address those underlying causes. 
  • Partly in response to these challenges, I’ve written a piece offering my own understanding of what we’re working with. I suggest that we are working with three distinct issues:
    # An implementation challenge for mindfulness programmes that have an established evidence base, and developing the case for others. 
    # System change on the basis of values that derive from mindfulness-based approaches.
    # Provision and system change in line with the social change agenda articulated by Mark Drakeford and embedded in Welsh Government policies. 

From a Triratna perspective, I see the mindfulness movement as offering breadth as it can reach millions of people and engage with many parts of society where Buddhism cannot reach. At least some of the criticisms that can be levelled at it boil down to a lack of depth and I look to communities such as Triratna for that.”

Read more about Vishvapani’s work around Mindfulness and Society 

Follow Vishvapani’s writing and broadcasts on his ‘Wise Attention’ blog.

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admoore54's picture

Has anyone done a scoping exercise on this for the whole of Wales?

Vishvapani's picture

I’m not sure quite what you have in mind, but one member of our group is Stephen Stanley of Cardiff University, who is running a project called ‘mapping mindfulness in the UK’ which is scoping the whole British mindfulness world in the UK, including Wales. That will be completed next year and we (including the Welsh Government) will draw on the findings. 

Vajracaksu's picture

Thank you for that, very encouraging Vishvapani.