Hungry Ghost Retreat Part I: From Hungry Ghost to Being Human 2015

with Vince Cullen, 23 – 27 March, 2015

Vince Cullen, Hungry Ghost


This mindful recovery retreat offers the opportunity to experience a wholly Buddhist approach to recovery from all forms of addiction. This retreat is open to those new to recovery as well as those who have been on the path of recovery for a longer time.  All are welcome to sit together to discover and explore alternative and complementary approaches to recovery that support our aspiration of total-abstinence. For the period of the retreat, retreatants are required to commit to Sila (the Five Precepts – the ethical training guidelines for laypeople)
. It is important to note that we do not have to be a ‘Buddhist’ to cultivate any of these qualities or to adapt or adopt any of the principles discussed or the meditation practices explored.

 Recovering people of all faiths or none are welcome on this retreat. The retreat will begin on Monday 23th, March 2015 and end on Friday 27th March, 2015. 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, and 2014 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 4000 THB including 3 meals per day and accommodation for the 4 nights of the retreat. Please arrive and register before 12 noon on Monday, March 23. The retreat will begin at 4pm with an introductory session.


Guidelines for Retreatants

For the period of the retreat, retreatants are required to commit to Sila (the Five Precepts which comprise the ethical training guidelines for laypeople)

  1.     To refrain from harming any living being
  2.     To refrain from taking what is not offered
  3.     To refrain from sexual and sensual misconduct
  4.     To refrain from false speech (including idle gossip, harsh and divisive speech)
  5.     To refrain from taking substances which disturb the balance of the mind

Participants will be encouraged to minimise their use of telephones and the internet throughout the period of the retreat. Coffee will not be served during the retreat.  You are asked to respect this requirement. The community will be silent from 21.30 pm until 08:30 am each day including a silent breakfast.  There will be one completely silent day during the week. Each day will start at 06:25 with a morning reading and a 30-minute silent 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 Forgiveness – for healing our hearts and minds in recovery – will be central to each day’s practice.

 There will be an opportunity each evening for a volunteer to lead a Buddhist-oriented ‘Sit-and-Share’ recovery meeting (see for more details).


The retreat will comprise of a daily routine of sitting and walking meditation, Dhamma talks and optional interviews. The typical daily structure will be:

06h30 Wake-up bell
07h00 Morning Reading followed by silent meditation
07h30 Breakfast (mindfully in silence)
09h00 Talks, guided meditation and practice
12h00 Lunch
13h00 Free time / Personal practice
14h00 Talks, guided meditation and practice
17h30 Free time / Personal practice
18h00 Light evening meal
19h00 Peer led ’Sit-and-Share’ recovery meeting
21h30 Noble silence until after breakfast

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 HMP Coldingley.

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 – in part – dependent on the generosity of Dana. There will be more details provided on this during the retreat.

A Buddhist Oriented Approach: The Path of Recovery

There are many paths of recovery. Some are short term interventions while some are lifetime commitments.  In this retreat, we employ a Buddhist approach to recovery that is based on the following multidimensional practices:

  • Truth, Truthfulness and Commitment (Sajja): the notion that pain is inevitable, while suffering is optional. The truth of the way things really are and our commitment to change.
  • Generosity (Dana): the antidote to the selfishness of the ‘addict self’.  A generosity of heart and mind expressed in our thoughts, in our words and in our actions.  Generosity gives rise to ethical living, to kindness, to the ability to forgive and to fellowship and it supports our meditation practice.
  • Ethics (Sila): the aspiration to live fearlessly, harmlessly and skilfully through the Five Precepts and using these gifts to prevent relapse and to reduce the harm in our own life and within our communities.
  • Loving-kindness (Metta): the regular practice of loving-kindness meditation to lift our self-esteem and promote our well-being, and the well-being of all those around us.  We can in time expand our practice to include Compassion, Joy-Gladness and Equanimity.
  • Forgiveness (Khama): the regular practice of forgiveness meditation to skilfully examine and let go of the past, thereby healing our present and embracing our future – whatever it may hold.
  • Meditation & Mindfulness (Sati): the practice of meditation of body, feelings and mind and the cultivation of mindfulness to support & protect our recovery.
  • Admirable Friends & Fellowship (Kalyāna-mittatā): Joining a support group or starting our own. “Admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the spiritual life.

Healing the Heart-Mind in Recovery

Our retreat will include a focused, systematic, retrospective and progressive investigation of our self-views through the traditional practices of Loving-kindness and Forgiveness. This is intended to support the letting-go of hatred and ill-will for ourselves and others.  We will learn to incline our minds towards kindness… there is no finer mindfulness!

 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 will write the names – starting with our own – 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 prayers and wishes.
 We will also write the names – starting with our own – of the people from whom we might want to ask for forgiveness.
 And lastly, we will write the names – starting with our own name – of all of the people that we may wish to forgive.

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