Hungry Ghost Retreat Part II – June 2015

with Vince Cullen, 1 – 5 June, 2015

Prayer Flags


This mindful recovery retreat offers the opportunity to experience a wholly Buddhist approach to recovery from all forms of addiction. The course expands upon and follows the Hungry Ghost Retreat Part One. it aims to deepen our understanding of recovery from addictions and compulsions that manifest as craving, aversion, and confusion. We will 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 1, June 2015 and end on Friday 5 June, 2015. The language of the retreat is English.

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, June 1. 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 lay people)

  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

Each day will start at 07:00 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, Compassion, Joy-Gladness and Equanimity will be central to each day’s practice.


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

Retreat Commitment

Just as our recovery requires our complete 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.

  • The guideline for participants wanting to attend this retreat is a minimum of six month’s clean time.
  • Priority will be given to those individuals who have already attended a Hungry Ghost Recovery retreat.
  • We will follow a structured framework, enjoying a mixture of talks, mindfulness, sitting, walking and standing meditation.
  • Each evening will include a ‘Sit-and-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 any).
  • 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 minimise their use of telephones and the internet throughout the period of the retreat; and particularly on ‘silent day’.
  • 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.
  • The retreat will end after lunch on the last day.

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.

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