Hungry Ghost Retreat Part One August 2015

with Vince Cullen, 24 – 28 August, 2015

Vince Cullen, Hungry Ghost


This is a 5-day residential retreat exploring Buddhist practices that support recovery from addictions. It will involve an introduction to recovery from addictions and compulsions that manifest as Craving, Aversion and Confusion. The focus will be on developing an understanding and appreciation of the difference between ‘abstaining’ from intoxication and ‘abandoning’ intoxication.

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 you do not have to be a Buddhist to practice, adopt or to adapt any of the principles discussed, and meditation practices explored.

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

The retreat will begin on Monday 24 August, 2015 and end on Friday 28 August, 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, 2014, and March 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 4000 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 14.00 pm on 24 August. The retreat will begin at 4pm with a welcome talk and introduction to mindfulness for recovery. The retreat will close after lunch on Friday.


Your Retreat Commitment

Just as our recovery requires our complete wholehearted commitment and our full effort, so does attendance on any Hungry Ghost Retreat.  It is a requirement of acceptance on retreat that you attend for the whole retreat and take part in all sessions.  If you are not an ‘early morning person’ then this retreat is not for you.

Harmlessness: I will act in accordance with the Five Precepts for the duration of the retreat –

  • I will not harm myself or anyone else.
  • I will not take anything that has not been freely given.
  • I will be maintain respectful and proper sexual boundaries.
  • I will speak truthfully and kindly.
  • I will not take drugs or alcohol.

Attendance: I will be present at all sessions.

Time keeping: I will be on time for all retreat activities.

Silent Periods: I will observe and respect all silent times.

Smoking: I will not smoke during the retreat. If I must then I will not smoke on site. I will smoke alone and in silence.  I will be mindful of the harm that I am doing to myself.  Smoking will not be a social event.

Telephone:  I will power-off my mobile telephone or hand it in to the Retreat Manager for safe keeping.

Internet: I will power-off all electronic devices including tablets, laptops and mobile phones or hand them in to the Retreat Manager for safe keeping.

Canteen:  I will only access the Dining Room during the designated times, that is: breakfast, lunch, supper, and after sit-and share meetings before lights out/silence at 21.30pm.

Hot Drinks: I will only make hot drinks during mealtimes and designated ‘tea meditation’ times.  I will not take hot drinks outside of the dining room.

Dormitory Respect:  I will not enter the rooms or dormitory of the opposite gender without the express permission of the Retreat Manager or Teacher.

Karmic Consequences:  I know and accept that I am the owner of my thoughts, words and actions. I know and accept the consequences of not keeping the retreat rules. I know and accept that I may be asked to leave the retreat if my words or actions are inappropriate. The Retreat Manager’s decision will be final.


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 a morning reading and a 30-minute period 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 Morning reading and Guided Meditation

07:00 Mindful Housekeeping Tasks

08:00 Breakfast in silence

09:00 Check-in, talks, guided meditation and practice.

12:00 Lunch.

13:00 Free time / Personal practice.

14:00 Talks, guided meditation and practice.

17:00 Free time / Personal practice

18:00 Light supper

19:00 ‘Sit-and-Share’

21:00 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 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.

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.


Additional Information

The guideline for participants wanting to attend this retreat is a minimum of three month’s clean time.

No previous meditation 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.

Participants wishing to gain the most from this meditation retreat are strongly advised to refrain (detox) from coffee and other caffeinated drinks beginning at least seven days before the start of the retreat.

Participants are encouraged to switch-off or minimise their use of telephones and the internet throughout the period of the retreat.

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 21h30 until 09h00 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.

Some Potential Learning Outcomes

An introduction to and/or deepening of one’s own mindfulness meditation practice as a basic attitude in everyday life.
A basic understanding of Buddhist principles and practices of mindfulness-based harm reduction, relapse prevention and addiction recovery.
An understanding and appreciation of the difference between ‘abstaining’ from intoxication and ‘abandoning’ intoxication (i.e. 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 recovery meetings.

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

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