Being Human – A Hungry Ghost Retreat – April 2017

with Vince Cullen, 24 – 28 April, 2016

Vince Cullen, Hungry Ghost

‘Being Human’ is an intensive 5-day residential retreat exploring ‘Buddhist’ principles and practices that cultivate a more personally contented experience of everyday living.

This retreat is an encouragement to lift the veil and break the spell of universal cravings, aversions and confusions that so often manifest as addictions, compulsions, and harmful thinking and behaviours.

This is not a silent retreat but there will be periods of quietude including one complete day of silence.

This retreat includes a progressive investigation of self-views through the traditional practices of Loving-kindness and Forgiveness – supporting the letting-go of hatred and ill-will for ourselves and for others.  We will learn to incline our minds towards kindness…there is no finer mindfulness!

It is important to note that you do not have to be ‘a Buddhist’ to practice any of the principles discussed, and meditation practices explored.

Each retreatant will be given a personal set of Tibetan Prayer Flags.  One side of each flag is decorated with wood block prints of auspicious mantras, syllables and prayers – the other side is blank.

  • Throughout the 5 days, as we progress through our retreat, we are invited to write the names – starting with our own name – of all the many people that we want to send the blessings of loving-kindness and compassion to on our personal prayer-flags.
  • We may also write our own personal aspirations, prayers and wishes creatively using words or images or symbols.
  • We may also write the names – starting with our own name – of the people from whom we might want to ask for forgiveness.
  • And lastly, we may write the names – starting with our own name – of all of the people that we may wish to forgive.

Recovering people of all faiths or none are welcome on this retreat.

The retreat will begin on Monday 24 April, 2017 and end on Friday 28 April, 2017. The language of the retreat is English.

This is Part One of the Hungry Ghost retreat and the same course as was offered in March 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, and March and August 2015 at New Life Foundation. This retreat is generally only open to staff, residents, and volunteers of New Life Foundation, with a few limited spaces for outside guests pending room availability. The fee for outside guests is 7000 THB including 3 meals per day and accommodation for the 4 nights of the retreat. Please do not send your retreat fee prior to enquiring about space availability. Arrival and registration is before 2pm on Monday, 24 April. The retreat will begin at 4pm with a welcome talk and introduction to mindfulness for recovery. The retreat will close after lunch on Friday, 28 April.


Your Retreat Commitment (Sajja)

My commitment to each retreat is to prepare and share my formulation of these teachings for everyone’s benefit. However, we create a retreat together when we show up for ourselves and for each other. Retreatants are expected to adhere to the ‘Retreat Commitment’.  Just as our ‘waking-up’ requires our complete wholehearted commitment and our full effort, so does attendance on any Hungry Ghost Retreat.  It is a requirement on retreat that you attend for the whole retreat and take part in all sessions. For example, if you are not an ‘early morning person’ then this retreat is not for you.


Each day will start at with a wake-up bell at 06:00. We will then meet in the meditation hall at 06:25 for Mindful Qi-gong, a morning reading and a 30 minute period of meditation. Throughout each day there will be talks and discussions; and most importantly plenty of opportunity to practice sitting, walking and standing meditation. The essential practices of Loving-kindness and Forgivenessfor healing our hearts in recovery – will be central to each day’s practice. A typical daily structure will be:

06:00 Wake-up bell

06:25 Qi-gong, morning reading and guided meditation

07:30 Breakfast in silence

08:30 Check-in / teaching and practice

12:30 Lunch

13:00 Free time / personal practice

14:00 Teaching and practice

17:00 Sauna / free time

18:30 Dinner

19:30 ‘Sit-and-Share’


Some Background on Vince Cullen

vince-cullenThe retreat will be led by Vince Cullen. Vince is an ex-alcoholic who has been associated with the Wat Thamkrabok monastery in Thailand and Buddhist-oriented drug and alcohol recovery since 1998. Vince facilitates the Fifth Precept meditation for recovery group in Berkshire and is a charter member of the Buddhist Recovery Network. Vince says of his own experience of this path that “it leads to the unbinding from addiction and the fading away of cravings”. In 2012, Vince completed the Committed Dhamma Practitioners Programme (CDPP) run by Gaia House in Devon, England.  In 2013, Vince was appointed as the Buddhist Prison Chaplain at H.M. Prison Coldingley (men) in 2013 and at H.M. Prison Send (women) in 2014.

Vince says of his own experience of this path that, “It leads to the unbinding from addiction and the fading away of cravings”.

Dana: The retreat teachings are offered freely in accordance with the Buddhist tradition of Dana (the cultivation and practice of the virtue of generosity) where the retreatant is invited to contribute financially to the teachings and the mentoring based on their individual income and the value that they place on what has been offered. The livelihood of the teacher is dependent on the generosity of Dana. There will be more details provided on this during the retreat.

Some Potential Learning Outcomes

• Learning to stay with the uncomfortable – Right Now It’s Like This!

• Develop an appreciation of the liberating distinction between ‘abstinence’ and ‘abandonment’.

• An introduction to and/or deepening of one’s own mindfulness meditation practice as a basic attitude in everyday life.

• A basic understanding of the Buddhist principles and practices of mindfulness-based harm reduction, relapse prevention and waking-up from ‘addictions’ and compulsions.

• An understanding and appreciation of the difference between ‘abstinence’ and ‘abandonment’ of addictions, compulsions and harmful behaviour (i.e. the Training Precepts compared to the commitment of a Sajja [Vow]).

• The opportunity to take part in and/or lead Buddhist-oriented ‘Sit-and-Share‘ peer led support meetings.

• The optional opportunity to make a Sajja [intention/aspiration/commitment/vow] as an outward manifestation of the heart’s desire to move away from suffering towards the end of suffering.

Additional Information

  • The retreat will begin on Monday at 14:00 (please arrive in time for lunch at 12:30)
  • The guideline for participants wanting to attend this retreat is a minimum of three month’s clean time.
  • No previous mediation experience is required.
  • We will follow a structured framework, enjoying a mixture of talks, mindfulness, sitting, walking and standing meditation.
  • Each evening will include a ‘Sit & Share’ recovery meeting led by a volunteer member of the group.
  • Retreatants agree to attend all the scheduled sessions and to partake of communal housekeeping tasks, if required.
  • Participants are encouraged to switch-off or minimise their use of telephones and the internet throughout the period of the retreat. Phones, tablets, etc. should not be taken into the meditation hall.
  • Although this is not intended to be a silent retreat, there will be plenty of opportunity to enjoy quiet times by yourself, or with others. Throughout each day we will seek to create a restful and contemplative atmosphere. The community will be silent from 21:30 until 08:30 including a silent breakfast, and there will be one completely silent day during the week.
  • It is intended to open and close this week’s practice with simple Sajja Vow and Precepts ceremonies – without obligation or expectation – for anyone wishing to formally establish and strengthen these intentions.
  • The retreat will end after lunch on Friday.

For more information or to contact Vince, please visit his website:

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