The London Buddhist Centre (LBC) was founded in 1978 in what was a burnt-out Victorian fire station in Bethnal Green. Its mission was to make meditation and Buddhism accessible to all, teaching in a way that is relevant to contemporary western life. Today the centre is a thriving community, with over a thousand people coming through its doors every week.
The Breathing Space project was borne from the desire to use a deep understanding of mindfulness and meditation, gained from decades’ worth of experience, to help people with their mental health. In 2004, former NHS consultant psychiatrist, Dr Paramabandhu Groves, saw an opportunity to bring together his professional background and Buddhist practice to offer courses in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) at the centre. The courses proved hugely successful, so along with senior meditation teacher Maitreyabandhu, they developed an approach to mental health that coupled extensive training in the Buddhist tradition with the latest evidence-based material. A team of Buddhist teachers were then trained to teach MBAs under Dr Groves’ supervision, delivering the material in an entirely religion-free manner. In 2007 the LBC received lottery funds to build a dedicated secular mindfulness centre, and Breathing Space became the first purpose-built mindfulness venue in the UK.
Since then Breathing Space has become a hub for mental health and wellbeing in East London, helping over 3500 people recover from recurrent depression, addiction, stress and anxiety. We are well connected across London, working closely with local councils, GP practices, mental health organisations and charities. We offer a varied program of mindfulness activities, including a twice-a-year MBA retreat, which we run at the LBC’s retreat centre in Suffolk. Funded by Tower Hamlets council, we have offered over 500 free places on these courses and retreats. We have also developed a free-of-charge stress reduction program for unpaid carers, giving hundreds of local carers much needed respite from their responsibilities.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Breathing Space London has moved all its activities online, running a well-subscribed and successful programme of courses and events that directly address the evolving challenges of current times. Our online programme has reached over 3000 people across the globe and has turned Breathing Space London into an international community.