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The European Summer Research Institute (ESRI) is an event initiated by Mind & Life Europe bringing together around 120 scientists and practitioners in a unique retreat setting.
The primary aim of ESRI is to further develop and promote the interdisciplinary community of contemplative science in Europe, with a special focus on preparing the next generation of researchers and practitioners in the field and building ‘gentle bridges’ (F. Varela) between an ever-widening array of disciplines. The program features interdisciplinary scholarly presentations and dialogue, inquiry through first-person experience, active contemplative practice, and ample intergenerational networking opportunities. Scientists, scholars, researchers, educators, clinicians, and professionals working in this field come together as a community to share ideas, knowledge, methodologies, and experiences from their lives and work, in order to bring about concrete advances in the field.
Attendees of the ESRI are eligible to apply for the European Varela Awards for contemplative research. Click here for more information about the European Varela Awards (EVAs). The application period for the EVA 2023 cycle starts this fall and the awardees will be announced via our MLE website, newsletter and social media in March 2024.
This year marks the first year in a new three-year thematic arc, “Caring for Life,” which will foreground caring as an active, processual, and participative feature of being human in a wildly complex and rapidly evolving ecosystem. In year 1, “Sentience and Responsibility in Critical Times,” we will start by questioning the basic terms of inquiry: What is sentience? How do we understand responsibility in the widest possible sense? How might responsibility at once emerge from sentience and tend toward sentience? What is the place of the human in the ‘more-than-human’ realm, whether understood classically as nature or as the emergent network of artificial intelligence that undergirds our everyday lives? Is it even possible to demarcate today a clear boundary between sentience and non-sentience? Besides several prominent scientists and philosophers, we will hear from social scientists, clinicians, educators, environmentalists, AI theorists, legal scholars, and more. We hope to thus build a more nuanced understanding of sentience and its ethical implications in a world that desperately needs our tending.
This year’s program will invite participants to probe “Sentience and Responsibility in Critical Times” through five primordial qualities of being — Equanimity, Joy, Loving-kindness, Care, and Commitment — each of which will allow us to ask questions about where sentience begins and ends, how sentience might enter into right relationship with the ailing (and more-than-human) world, and what ethical frontiers have yet to be considered in a rapidly evolving technocracy. Each day will be devoted to one quality, taken up by a dense matrix of different disciplinary perspectives in the morning, and explored through playful and participatory workshops in the afternoon. Relying as much on empirical research as on creative and contemplative practices, the program will help us all to build a more nuanced and cross-disciplinary understanding of life on this planet.
ESRI offers a much-needed space outside of the traditional academic conference circuit, in which contemplative researchers at different stages of their career can come together, learn from one another, exchange experiences and methodologies, and initiate new collaborations. It also provides an example of how to encourage a productive circulation between different disciplinary perspectives, as well as between theory and practice. In addition to theoretical exchanges, there will be ample space for practice, whether in the form of contemplation, activities in nature, dance, and movement, or artistic co-creations. It is an invaluable opportunity to build life-long connections and friendships with like-minded people, supporting each other’s growth in the direction of caring and awareness.
We hope that you will consider applying this year and participating in the co-emergence of this unique exploration of sentience and responsibility.
Mind & Life Europe will be partnering with the Institution Lama Tzong Khapa (ILTK) and the Italian Buddhist Union for the European Summer Research Institute 2022 and the MLE Retreat. We are pleased to announce this event partnership with ITLK and the Italian Buddhist Union, and we look forward to jointly hosting the two events later this summer.
More information about the program and faculty for ESRI 2023 will become available soon.
Dr. Laura Candiotto
Dr. Jay Garfield
Valentine Goblet d’Alviella
Dr. Tirso Gonzales
Ven. Gendun Losang
Dr. Maria E. Louw
Dr. Edel Maex
Dr. Josipa Mihić
Ven. Dr. Carola Roloff
Dr. Mark Sedgwick
Dr. Luc Steels
Dr. Christian Suhr
Dr. Christopher Timmermann
Father Francis Tiso
Dr. Lieselotte Viaene
Dr. Martijn van Beek
Dr. Marieke van Vugt
Amy Cohen Varela
Dr. Andreas Weber
ESRI fosters interdisciplinary dialogue and potential project collaborations, and thus is limited to 120 participants. A selection process identifies those whose interests are best matched to the annual theme.
Applicants should self-categorize into three categories: Research Fellow, Senior Investigator and Professional.
“Research Fellows” include undergraduate and graduate students, as well as postdoctoral fellows conducting research in neuroscience, biological and medical sciences, experimental and clinical psychology, the social sciences, or the humanities. Students and early-career researchers and contemplative scholars who work in the interdisciplinary field of contemplative sciences and scholarship are encouraged to apply in this category.
This category includes established academic researchers, contemplative scholars and educators who hold university or college faculty appointments (full-time, clinical or adjunct).
Professionals (e.g. educators, clinicians, therapists, HR managers, change agents) who are independent practitioners or affiliated with non-academic institutions apply in this category. This includes people working in business and (social) entrepreneurship.
Lama Tzong Khapa Institute is a Tibetan Buddhist center located in the heart of Tuscany (near Pisa). They offer regular courses on Buddhism, meditation, and many other topics, all aimed at the development of the human qualities of kindness, compassion, and wisdom. The Institute community consists of a sangha of Buddhist monks and nuns, an international body of lay students and visitors, and a large group of staff and volunteers. They welcome everyone interested in following a course or just to spend some quiet time enjoying the beautiful, peaceful setting.
Since its founding in 1977, Lama Tzong Khapa Institute has grown into one of the largest Tibetan Buddhist centers in Europe. As an international school for Buddhist studies and practice, it attracts students from around the world who are interested in deepening their understanding of Buddhism and the mind through intensive study of Buddhist philosophy and psychology. These courses also include introspective meditation methods and an opportunity for active service.
Lama Tzong Khapa Institute has a range of clean and bright single and double guest rooms, wooden cabins and dormitories for anyone interested in staying – whether it be for one night or to live here while studying one of our long term residential study programs. Breakfast, bedding and towels are included in the price.
For more detailed information about how to access the venue, please visit the Institute’s website.
|ESRI + retreat
These prices cover the whole program and full board at the venue (including food and drink). Please note that most rooms are shared with one other participant of the same gender and single rooms are extremely limited in availability.
Non-participating partners can attend without submitting a separate application form. We are happy to offer them a 10% reduction on the overall package price.
Participants of ESRI (and the retreat) are expected to cover their own registration fee. Financial support is available for selected (PhD) students and early career scholars, with a particular priority given to scholars coming from Eastern Europe, the Baltic countries and Russia.
If you would like to be considered for financial support, please submit a written request in the application form with details of your financial situation (max. 300 words). Please note that MLE operates on a limited budget, and will only be able to provide grants to the selected recipients.
To apply to participate in ESRI 2023, please fill in this application form, including a professional CV, and a 500 word motivation letter explaining your reasons for wanting to attend this year’s ESRI.
All applications will be subject to review. Spaces are limited, so it is possible that not all applications will be successful.
Application deadline extended to Friday, May 19th, 2023 at midnight CEST.
If your application is successful, you will be invited to apply to present your work at ESRI 2023, either as a poster presentation, or in some other creative way. More information about this will be provided after the application period.
For any questions, please email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Laura Candiotto is Associate Professor in Philosophy at the Centre for Ethics of the University of Pardubice, Czech Republic. Originally from Italy, she moved to Scotland, France, and Germany in the last seven years for carrying out different research projects on the philosophy of emotions. Her research focuses on the epistemic role of emotions as embedded in dialogical interactions and communities of inquiry. She has extensively worked on love, wonder, compassion, and shame bridging her expertise in the Socratic method of inquiry and the enactive approach to participatory sense-making. She also published on the ethics of knowing with a virtue theoretical approach to epistemic responsibility. She is now exploring the enactive and pragmatist approaches to human sensibility and shared sentience. She is also contributing to the development of an enactive ethics of sense-making grounded on affects as what disclose existential concerns and values, especially regarding environmental issues. As a Tibetan Buddhism practitioner, she has a long-standing interest in the transformation of negative emotions, the intertwining of compassion and wisdom, and the role of desire, aspiration, devotion, and embodiment in contemplative practices. Websites: www.emotionsfirst.org; https://upce.academia.edu/LauraCandiotto
Jay L. Garfield directs the Buddhist Studies Program and Tibetan Studies in India program at Smith College. He is also visiting professor of Buddhist philosophy at Harvard Divinity School, Professor of Philosophy at Melbourne University and Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies. Academicinfluence.com has identified him as one of the 50 most influential philosophers in the world over the past decade.
Garfield’s research addresses topics in the foundations of cognitive science and the philosophy of mind; metaphysics; the history of modern Indian philosophy; topics in ethics, epistemology and the philosophy of logic; methodology in cross-cultural interpretation; and topics in Buddhist philosophy, particularly Indo-Tibetan Madhyamaka and Yogācāra. He is the author or editor of over 30 books and over 200 articles, chapters, and reviews.
Garfield’s most recent books are Getting Over Ourselves: How to be a Person Without a Self (2022), Knowing Illusion: Bringing a Tibetan Debate into Contemporary Discourse (with the Yakherds 2021, Buddhist Ethics: A Philosophical Exploration (2021), ̛What Can’t Be Said: Paradox and Contradiction in East Asian Thought (with Yasuo Deguchi, Graham Priest, and Robert Sharf 2021), and The Concealed Influence of Custom: Hume’s Treatise From the Inside Out (2019).
Dr. Tirso Gonzales, Sociologist by training (PhD University of Wisconsin, Madison). Postdoctoral studies (UC Davis, UC Berkeley). Former Indigenous Studies professor at the University of British Columbia-Okanagan, Canada. Currently works as a deprofessionalized intellectual, and independent consultant. He is an active member of Universidad del Pacífico´s Ciencia Andina/Andean Science Think-Tank group, Lima, Perú. His work experience as scholar, international consultant and activist has allowed him to work on and with Indigenous Peoples agendas. Former member of the Global International Assessment of Agricultural Science & Technology for Development, IAASTD. He has participated at various Intergovernmental Science-Policy meetings. Currently works on Challenges of Duality and Non-Duality´s Ways of Knowing and Being for “Buen Vivir/Sumaq Kawsay” and for the Intercultural Nurturing/Crianza of the Andean Regions’ Territory”. For the last three years, as a way of “Learning to Unlearn”, he participates regularly in weekly Satsangs (being in the company of truth. Being in the company with the sage). He has a bilingual Youtube channel devoted to NonDuality (https://www.youtube.com/@Tirsogonzales/featured )
Ven. Gendun Losang is a Dutch buddhist monk, resident teacher of the Maitreya Institute, Amsterdam and visiting teacher of Jamyang Buddhist Centre Leeds, UK, Garuda, Monaco and One-Dharma, Portugal. Having been ordained in 2006, he studied Buddhist philosophy and psychology at the Nalanda Monastery France, after which he spent over four years in solitary retreat in both Tibetan Gelug and Theravada monasteries in France, Nepal, and Burma.
He is currently developing a platform for the long-term support of Western meditators, The Buddha Project, that combines traditional methods and contemporary theory, in collaboration with Nicolas Pellerin, a researcher from Toulouse University, aiming to investigate perceptional and semiotic evolution in long-term meditators. He is active in interreligious dialogue and practice, working together with Benedictine monastic communities and a Turkish Mevlevi Dargah.
Maria Louw is associate professor in anthropology and leader of the Centre for the Study of Ethics and Community at Aarhus University. Her research interests include religion and secularism, ethics, care, spectrality, phenomenology, and imagistic anthropology. She has conducted extensive fieldwork in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. She is currently working on a book with the working title "Spectral Ethics: Rebuilding Moral Worlds in Post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan."
Dr. Edel Maex is a psychiatrist and Zen teacher living in Antwerp, Belgium. Teaching mindfulness became his way to integrate his Zen practice and his practice as a psychiatrist. He founded the Stress Clinic at the ZNA Hospital in Antwerp. He is the author of several books (in Dutch) on mindfulness and Buddhism. He is currently translating the Dharma talks he has given over the years into English and publishing them on Substack.
Josipa Mihić, is an associate professor and head of the Department of Behavioral Disorders at the study program of Social Pedagogy at the Faculty of Education and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Zagreb.She teaches courses in the field of mental health promotion and prevention science at the graduate and postgraduate level. As a co-founder of a Laboratory for Prevention Research (PrevLab) she has been involved in multiple international projects focused on prevention of mental, emotional and behavioral problems of children and youth and mental health promotion. Her areas of research focus are promotion of socio-emotional learning and mental health of children and adults in education, prevention of behavioral problems, effects of mindfulness/meditative practices on positive development of individuals (involving mindfulness apps), positive youth development, and role of compassion and self-compassion in preventing behavioral problems and mental health promotion. She is a co-founder of the national platform for the promotion of meditative activities for children and teachers – minimindfulness. She was trained in Gestalt psychotherapy at The European Association for Gestalt Therapy (EAGT) and works as a children and adults’ psychotherapist at the Teaching and Clinical Center of the Faculty.
Ven. Dr. Carola Roloff (Bhikshuni Jampa Tsedroen) has been a permanent visiting professor for Buddhism and Dialogue in Modern Societies at the Academy of World Religions at the University of Hamburg, Germany since 2018. Becoming a Buddhist nun in 1981 (Bhikshuni ordination in Taiwan in 1985), she has studied Buddhist philosophy and practice as well as Tibetology and Indology with a focus on Buddhist studies (Magistra 2003, doctorate 2009). From 2010 to 2017, Roloff led a DFG research project on the ordination of Buddhist nuns. From 2013 to 2018, she was part of the European research project "Religion and Dialogue in Modern Societies". Her current research focuses on dialogical theology and practice, intra-Buddhist dialogue, and recognition processes of Buddhist minorities in Europe. In addition, she has been an ongoing participant in the in-service course Conflict Counselling and Mediation at the University of Hamburg since the summer semester of 2022. She is particularly interested in Buddhist and interreligious chaplaincy and Buddhist care practice. Website: http://www.carolaroloff.de/
Mark Sedgwick is professor of Arab and Islamic Studies at Aarhus University in Denmark. He was born in London and taught for many years at the American University in Cairo. He is by training a historian, and works especially on Sufism and esotericism, and also on right-wing ideology and extremism. His most recent book is Traditionalism: The Radical Project for Restoring Sacred Order (2023).
Luc Steels is Professor Emeritus in Artificial Intelligence from the University of Brussels (VUB) in Belgium. He studied linguistics and philosophy at the University of Antwerp and computer science and artificial intelligence at MIT (US). He founded and directed the VUB Artificial Intelligence laboratory in Brussels from 1983 and the Sony Computer Science Laboratory in Paris from 1996. From 2011 he was research professor at the Institute for Evolutionary Biology at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona. Currently he is scientific director at the Venice International University and senior strategy advisor at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center. Steels worked in many areas of AI from computational linguistics, expert systems, and knowledge representation to neural networks, cognitive robotics and value-aware AI. He is primarily interested in using AI as a tool to investigate embodied mind, meaning, language and consciousness. In 2022 Steels received the Distinguished Service award of the European AI Research Association, the highest award for AI in Europe. He is currently chair for natural sciences of the Royal Flemish Academy for science and art in Belgium. Luc Steels has also been active in the performing arts as a composer of operas and theatre. His latest opera Fausto (performed in Brussels and Paris) was about transhumanism and the limits and dangers of using AI in attempts to gain immortality.
Christian Suhr is a filmmaker and professor of anthropology at Aarhus University. He is the author and director of the award-winning film and book “Descending with angels” about possession, psychiatry, and Islamic exorcism (MUP 2019, www.descendingwithangels.com). In 2022, he completed the film “Light upon light” in collaboration with the Cairo-based film collective Hassala Films (to be screened at ESRi). Christian Suhr is currently working as the PI of an ERC-STG project entitled “Heart Openings”. The project uses microphenomenology, life story interviews, and audiovisual tools of experiential elicitation to explore the experience and cultivation of love in Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam.
Christopher Timmermann (PhD) obtained a BSc in Psychology in Santiago, Chile and an MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Bologna in Italy. He is currently a post-doc at Imperial College London at the Centre for Psychedelic Research, where he leads the DMT Research Group, specialized in the potent psychedelics N,N-DMT and 5-MeO-DMT and their effects in the human brain and consciousness. His empirical and theoretical work focuses on the neuroscience, psychiatry, psychology, pharmacology, beliefs and ethics of psychedelics, their relationship to consciousness and applications in mental health. His work has been covered in BBC, CBC, Wired, The Times, and The Guardian. He is also the director for the Foundation for the Study of Human Consciousness (EcoH) in Chile.
A New York native, Father Tiso earned a Master of Divinity degree (cum laude)at Harvard University and holds a doctorate from Columbia University and UnionTheological Seminary where his specialization was Buddhist studies. His teaching interests include Christian theology, history of religions, spirituality, ecumenism and interreligious dialogue. Father Francis V. Tiso served the US Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2004 to 2009 as liaison to Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, the Sikhs, and Traditional religions as well as the Reformed confessions. Father Tiso is a priest of the Diocese of Isernia-Venafro, Italy, where he is Diocesan Delegate for Ecumenical and Inter-religious Affairs. He was recently elected to the Board of Directors of Mind and Life Europe, which promotes research in neuroscience, philosophy, and contemplative traditions.
Martijn van Beek is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and affiliated with the Interacting Minds Centre, both at Aarhus University, Denmark. Having worked and conducted research for many years on politics and development in Ladakh and elsewhere in the Himalayan region, for the past two decades his research has increasingly focused on the meeting ground between contemplative traditions, especially Buddhism, consciousness research and modernity. His research seeks to contribute to refining our understanding and the significance of emergent forms of contemplative ways of living for people and for the planet. He is also engaged in research on the (micro-)phenomenology of contemplative practice and experience. Martijn teaches sustainable ways of living and contemplative life in context, in theory and in practice at Aarhus University and elsewhere. He lives at Vaekstcenter, a contemplative community in Denmark.
Marieke van Vugt is an assistant professor at the Institute of Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Engineering (ALICE) of the University of Groningen (Netherlands). The research in Dr. van Vugt's lab focuses on how, when and why we mind-wander, and what the fundamental cognitive operations are that underlie meditation and mindfulness. Most recently, she started to investigate how analytical meditation practiced by Tibetan monks and nuns affects cognition and emotion. She addresses these questions using a combination of computational modeling, neuroscience, and experimental psychology tools. She very much enjoys projects were science, art (particularly classical ballet), and contemplation meet.
Amy Cohen Varela is Chairperson of the Mind & Life Europe Board and involved with Mind and Life since its inception. She is also a clinical psychologist specialized in psychodynamic therapy and philosophy. Amy studied comparative literature at Brown and Columbia Universities before moving to Paris in the early '80s, where she received her degree in clinical psychology at the University of Paris 7, with a specialty in psychodynamic theory and practice, and in parallel, completed psychoanalytic training.
Lieselotte is Principal Investigator of a European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant, awarded in 2018, titled ‘RIVERS – Water/Human Rights Beyond the Human? Indigenous Water Ontologies, Plurilegal Encounters and Interlegal Translation,’ addressing research contexts in Nepal, Guatemala, Colombia and in the UN human rights system. She is developing this six-year project, till 2025, with an international and interdisciplinary team at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid in Spain. She is Belgian-Flemish anthropologist with a PhD in Law (Ghent University, 2011) and has a first academic degree in Criminology. Since her master’s thesis (2002), she has been collaborating with Indigenous peoples in Peru, Guatemala, Ecuador and Colombia in diverse academic, policy and activist spaces. In the context of her PhD research (2006-2010), she embarked on a long-term collaborative ethnographic engagement of almost two years learning about Indigenous norms and practices of justice, reparation, reconciliation and memory with Maya Q’eqchi’ victims and perpetrators. She learned that what lawyers call ‘human rights violations’ for the indigenous Q’eqchi’ are not limited to human beings. Prior to her ERC Grant, she was a post-doctoral Marie Curie fellow at the University of Coimbra, Portugal (2016-2018) and a Human Rights Officer at the Office of United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights in Ecuador (2010-2013) where she was responsible for the areas of collective rights and transitional justice. Lieselotte subscribes the need talk about our epistemological resistances and racism, about the impact and limits of modernity, about the coloniality of power and legal coloniality and to calls for a decolonial academia, which should not be violent but should rather seek healing and promote care. Recently she co-wrote with Catarina Laranjeiro (Portuguese) and Miye Nadia Tom (Indigenous Native American) “The Wall Spoke When No One Else Would: Auto-Ethnographic Notes on Sexual-Power Gatekeeping within Avant-Garde Academia,” in Sexual Misconduct in Academia: Informing an Ethics of Care in the University, ed. Pritchard E. and Edwards D. (London: Routledge, 2023). Website: www.rivers-ercproject.eu
Dr. Andreas Weber is a biologist, philosopher and nature writer. He focuses on a re-evaluation of our understanding of the living. He proposes to view – and treat – all organisms as subjects and hence the biosphere as a meaning-creating and poetic reality. Andreas teaches at the University of the Arts, Berlin and at Bard College Berlin. He is Visiting Professor at the UNISG, Pollenzo, Italy. He contributes to major German newspapers and magazines and has published more than a dozen books, in English language most recently Enlivenment. A Poetics for the Anthropocene, MIT Press, 2019 and Sharing Life. The Ecopolitics of Reciprocity, Boell Foundation, 2020.
Photo credit: Annett Meltzer
Valentine Goblet d’Alviella is the founder of a yoga & meditation shala “shanti home” in Brussels. She is a certified yoga and meditation teacher and energetic healer with a mission to serve and host retreats/circles for reconnection to our true nature and to Earth. She has followed and supported the work of Mind & Life Europe since its establishment.