People at Mind & Life Europe

MLE (Honorary) Board

We are grateful for the members of our Board and of our Honorary Board to serve us with their time.

Association Members

Get to know our Mind & Life Europe Association Members who are based all across Europe.

MLE Team

Our team is dedicated to support Mind & Life Europe and its community in order to turn the vision into action.

Board members

Amy Cohen Varela

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 ‘80’s, 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. 

Erick Rinner

Erick, a Luxembourger based in Lausanne, has a 29-year experience in private equity and corporate governance. He is the managing partner of his own investment firm, Milestone Investisseurs, and he is a board member and a senior trainer with Potential Project, the global training company in corporate-based mindfulness programs. Erick's core skills include initiating change at board level, negotiation, advising management teams on value creation and leadership. He sits on the board of private companies and trusts in Luxembourg, London, Denmark and Switzerland. Erick has had a daily mindfulness practice for 13 years and is regularly in silent retreat. He received his MBA from Columbia Business School in New York (Award for Excellence) and is an executive coach. He teaches at University of Strasbourg in the Medicine, Meditation and Neurosciences program and is also a registered mindfulness teacher (MBSR). Erick gives all his mindfulness training fees to Karuna-Shechen and Global Nomads in Tibet.

Andreas Roepstorff

Andreas Roepstorff is a professor in cognition, communication and culture at the department of Culture and Society and the department of Clinical Medicine at Aarhus University, Denmark. He works at the interface between anthropology, cognitive science and neuroscience, and is equally interested in the workings of the mind and brain, and in how cognitive science and brain imaging, as fields of knowledge production, relate to other scientific and public fields. He has formal training in social anthropology and in neurobiology and has published both within these disciplines as well as in various collaborations across other fields. He is the director of the Interacting Minds Centre at Aarhus University and is involved in a number of transdisciplinary collaborations, focusing on aspects of human interaction. He has a long-standing research interest in cognitive aspects of contemplative practices.

Wolf Singer

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. Wolf Singer studied Medicine in Munich and Paris, obtained his MD from the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, and his PhD from the Technical University in Munich. He is Director emeritus at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt and Founding Director both of the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies (FIAS) and of the Ernst Strüngmann Institute (ESI) for Neuroscience in cooperation with Max Planck Society. His research focuses on the neuronal substrate of higher cognitive functions, in particular on the question of how the distributed sub-processes in the brain are coordinated and bound together in order to give rise to coherent perception and action.

Christian Thalhammer

Christian is chairman of the Supervisory Board and partner in AKRON Group, a European wide Real Estate company, which he founded and managed for almost 20 years. Since he retired as CEO he is occasionally giving leadership classes in the context of mindfulness for managers of multinational companies and organizations (Kalapa Academy, Cologne). After his studies at the Technical University in Vienna (MBA in chemical engineering, research on environmental issues) Christian worked in several management positions in the government, politics and multinational companies. Christian has long term experience in various forms of meditation and has been active as meditation teacher since 1984.

Honorary Board

Roshi Joan Halifax

Roshi Joan Halifax, PhD, is a Buddhist teacher, anthropologist and author. She is co-founder of the Mind & Life Institute, founded the Ojai Foundation, the Prajna Mountain Buddhist Order, is Abbot and Head Teacher of Upaya Zen Center, and co-founder of the Zen Peacemaker Order. She is a pioneer in the end-of-life care field, and is well known internationally for her work in engaged Buddhism. She was an Honorary Research Fellow at Harvard University and a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the Library of Congress.

Matthieu Ricard

Matthieu Ricard is a Buddhist monk at Shechen Monastery in Nepal. He received a PhD in Cellular Genetics at the Institut Pasteur in France under Nobel Laureate Francois Jacob. He has lived in the Himalayas since 1972, studying with Kangyur Rinpoche and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, two respected Tibetan spiritual masters. Since 1989, he has served as French interpreter for His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He is the author of The Monk and the Philosopher, The Quantum and the Lotus, Happiness, A guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill and Altruism: The Power of Compassion to Change Yourself and the World. He has translated several books from Tibetan, including The Life of Shabkar and The Heart of Compassion. He donates all the proceeds from his books and much of his time to 140 humanitarian projects in Tibet, Nepal and India, through his charitable association Karuna-Shechen.

Tania Singer

Tania Singer is the Scientific Head of the Social Neuroscience Lab at Max Planck Society in Berlin. After receiving her PhD in Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, she became a Post-doctoral Fellow at the same institution. In 2006, she became an Assistant Professor at the University of Zurich and later became Inaugural Chair of Social Neuroscience and Neuroeconomics and Co-Director of the Laboratory for Social and Neural Systems Research. Her research focuses on the foundations of human social behavior and on the neuronal, developmental, and hormonal mechanisms underlying social cognition and emotions. She investigates the psychological and neuroscientific effects of compassion and mental training on the brain, the mind, health, and cooperation, in longitudinal studies (The ReSource Project). 


Gabor Karsai - Managing Director

Gabor Karsai, based near Budapest, Hungary, is a long-standing member of the MLE Association, and presently serves as Rector of the Dharma Gate Buddhist College in Budapest, as well as Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies. Gabor has undertaken Ph.D studies with a focus on process philosophy (A. N. Whitehead), phenomenology and Buddhism. Over the last 15 years, he has had extensive management engagements, including as a deputy CEO at Bankar Holding Plc. (Hungary), Director of the Spirit of Humanity Forum (Iceland), the Education for Peace Foundation (Switzerland) and as CEO at the Ling Jiou Mountain Buddhist Society (Taiwan). He combines practical experience in running a not for profit organisation together with a deep appreciation for contemplative practice and science as well as the values and vision which MLE embodies.

Johanna Magin - Community and Programs Manager (starting on November 1, 2021) 

Originally American and based in Paris, Johanna holds a PhD in French literature from Columbia University (New York) and a BA in French from the University of Chicago. Her research has focused on the medico-philosophical practices of several early-modern French authors in an attempt to understand the relationship between mind and body, and more broadly between science and spirituality, in that time period. Always keen to understand mind-body processes from an experiential perspective, she has also practiced Buddhism intensively since 2008 (Zen and Dzogchen), practiced improvisational dance and theatre since 2009, and is currently training to become a Rosen Method bodywork therapist. Before joining MLE, she worked as an academic program manager and adjunct faculty member at Sciences Po in France, where she taught on a wide number of subjects, from philosophy as a way of life to the politics of poetry. 

Charlotte Clough - Communications and Events Manager 

Charlotte Clough, based in Scotland, is a graduate of the University of Glasgow. In her undergraduate degree, she specialised in French Language and Classical Civilisations. Her final year dissertation focused on the portrayal of women in 16th century French Emblem books, explored through the lens of modern critical theory. Alongside her work at MLE, she is also studying towards a masters in Global Security at her Alma Mater, University of Glasgow. In order to cultivate mindfulness and creativity in her life she regularly practices Vinyasa yoga and plays the violin. 

Derek Sola - Executive Assistant 

Derek Sola, originally from England, now based in Germany, provides administrative support for the Managing Director of Mind & Life Europe, and MLE as a whole. He is inspired by Mind & Life’s ultimate mission to "alleviate suffering and promote human and societal flourishing." He is a dedicated practitioner, reader, and translator of the early Buddhist teachings, with an MA in Buddhist Studies. Alongside his work for Mind & Life Europe, he is also active in a supporting role for various Buddhist organisations, as well as a freelance English editor and proofreader.

MLE Association Members (partial list)

All members of the MLE Board and MLE Honorary Board are also members of the association.

Elena Antonova, United Kingdom

Elena Antonova is Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Brunel University London, which she joined in June 2019. Prior to that she was a lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London (KCL), where she remains a Visiting Researcher. Elena’s research focuses on the effects of long-term mindfulness practice using neuroimaging and psychophysiology methods, with the application to the prevention and management of psychopathologies. She has been actively involved with the Mind and Life Institute since 2011 and Mind & Life Europe since 2013, and was elected a Mind and Life Research Fellow for her contribution to contemplative science in 2017.  Elena has had a personal meditation practice since 1998 and has attended numerous meditation retreats since 2001, mainly studying and practicing Dzogchen approach.

Catherine Bastien-Ventura, France

Trained as a biologist in toxicology and pharmacology, Catherine Bastien-Ventura is a research engineer at the national center for scientific research (CNRS) in Paris, France.  After 10 years of research in the field of cancerology (Institute Gustave Roussy, Villejuif), she has been teaching and managing research projects in the field of environment and sustainable development for public actors and private companies (Rhodia, Schneider Electric, Hutchinson).

Working for the French Ministry of Environment she was a research project manager within the research and foresight department, dealing with different types of pollution. After this position for almost ten years, at the interface of research and public policies, she joined the headquarter of CNRS, working for the Institute devoted to environment and sustainable development where she has been in charge of a cooperation program with China on environmental issues. Meanwhile, she also was the project manager for the Frontiers of Sciences programs with Japan and Taiwan. She is currently the international cooperation officer for French research networks dealing with area studies throughout Asia, Africa, Middle East and Muslim World. 

Thorsten Barnhofer, United Kingdom

Thorsten Barnhofer, PhD, is Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Surrey, United Kingdom, where he conducts research into the use of mindfulness-based interventions for the prevention and treatment of depression and associated mental disorders across the lifespan.

He has a particular interest in the mechanisms by which mindfulness meditation may reverse the psychological and biological factors that hold chronic and recurrent forms of depression in place. A cognitive-behavioural therapist and mindfulness teacher, he regularly offers mindfulness workshops and retreats for mental health professionals.

Michel Bitbol, France

Michel Bitbol is researcher at CNRS/Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, France. He received a M.D., a Ph.D. in physics and a “Habilitation” in philosophy. After a start in scientific research, he turned to philosophy of science, editing texts by Erwin Schrödinger and formulating a neo-kantian philosophy of quantum mechanics.

He then studied the relations between physics and the philosophy of mind, in collaboration with Francisco Varela, and drew a parallel between Buddhist dependent arising and non-supervenient relations in quantum physics. He also developed a first-person conception of consciousness expressed from the standpoint of an experience of meditation. More recently, he engaged a debate with the philosophical movement called “speculative realism”, from the same standpoint.

Leslie de Galbert, France

Leslie de Galbert, B.A. in Philosophy, Hollins University; D.E.S.S. in Clinical Psychology, University of Paris. Member of the International Association of Analytical Psychology and of the Association of Graduate Analytical Psychologists, Zürich. Born and raised in the United States, she has lived in Paris, France since 1972. As a clinical psychologist, Leslie worked in the public hospital system in Paris, in geriatrics and palliative care. As a psychoanalyst in private practice in Paris, she was a member of the Société Française de Psychologie Analytique. For the IAAP, she supervised the training of psychoanalysts in Tbilisi, Georgia.

She has published articles in the Cahiers jungiens de psychanalyse and the Revue de Psychologie Analytique, and enjoys translating articles on philosophy and psychoanalysis from French into English. Leslie has followed Mind and Life Institute dialogues since their beginnings in the 1980’s, and is an Association member of Mind & Life Europe.

John Dunne, USA

John Dunne (PhD 1999, Harvard University) is the Distinguished Chair in Contemplative Humanities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he serves as Core Faculty for the Center for Healthy Minds and as the chair of the Department of Asian Languages & Cultures. John Dunne's work focuses on Buddhist philosophy and contemplative practice, especially in dialog with Cognitive Science and Psychology. His publications appear in venues ranging across both the Humanities and the Sciences, and they include works on Buddhist philosophy, contemplative practices and their empirical examination and interpretation within scientific contexts. 

John Dunne speaks in both academic and public contexts, and he occasionally teaches for Buddhist communities. His broader engagements include being a Fellow of the Mind and Life Institute, where he was previously a member of the Board of Directors, and serving as an academic advisor to the Rangjung Yeshe Institute in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Diego Hangartner, Switzerland

Diego Hangartner, Pharm.D., PCC [b. 1962] completed his studies in pharmacology at the ETH Zurich, specializing in psycho-pharmacology and addiction. His main interest is to understand what constitutes a healthy mind, and how to cultivate it. He lived for 11 years in Dharamsala, India, learned Tibetan, and studied for 7 years at the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics. He completed several retreats, worked as an interpreter, translating Tibetan into many languages, and published a few books. On returning to Europe in 2003, he taught widely, and organized several large events with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and participated in research aimed at exploring the benefits of meditation as a long-term practitioner. Collaborations with many universities and research institutes, such as the Max Planck Institute, EPFL, Universities of Zurich, Lyon, Madison, USA, etc.

Diego is associated and worked with the Mind and Life Institute since the 1990's: he was Mind and Life’s COO from 2009 – 2012 in the USA. In 2008, he co-founded Mind & Life Europe and was its director until 2015. Diego founded the “Institute of Mental Balance and Universal Ethics” (IMBUE), an interdisciplinary initiative, to develop and provide tools and programs that foster mental balance. He created and teaches “The Wheel of Mental Balance”, a methodology to cultivate a healthy and resilient mind. Diego is also a professional certified coach (PCC), working with individuals, leaders and teams with a special focus on flourishing and development through a process of structure and discovery - insight generation, unfolding and forwarding action. For more information:

Charles-Antoine Janssen

Charles-Antoine Janssen is Managing Partner of KOIS INVEST, as well as a Board Member of UCB s.a. and Tubize s.a. He worked in several senior management positions with UCB in Brussels, Austria, India and emerging markets, inter alia as Head of Global Business Development. Charles-Antoine also worked with Merril Lynch in London, where he served as Vice President for European Equities Research and Strategic Solutions Group. Additionally, he has co-founded Toolbox and Toolbox India, a non-profit organisation that provides management services to NGOs. Charles-Antoine teaches social entrepreneurship at Brussels University (ULB). He holds a bachelor degree in Law from ULB and an AMP from Harvard Business School.

Steven Laureys, Belgium & Canada

Steven Laureys MD PhD FEAN is an award-winning neurologist and neuroscientist recognised worldwide as a leading clinician and researcher in the field of the neurology of consciousness. He is an active member of Mind and Life Europe and former president of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness and has published over 500 scientific articles on the workings of the human mind. He is known for his studies on consciousness after coma but also on near-death experiences, anesthesia, dreaming, hypnosis and meditation.

Prof. Dr. Laureys is Research Director at the Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research (2012), founding director of the "GIGA Consciousness Research Unit" (2014) and "Coma Science Group" (2006) of the University of Liège and ‘Centre du Cerveau’ at the University Hospital of Liège (2019) and visiting professor at CERVO Brain Research Centre in Canada (2021). He recently co-founded the Mind Care International Foundation and published the international bestseller ‘The no-nonsense meditation book’ (Bloomsbury 2021) in collaboration with Matthieu Ricard.

Photo credit: Debby Termonia

Astrid Lunkes, Germany

Astrid Lunkes is currently Director of Scientific Portfolio Management and Strategy at the Helmholtz Zentrum Munich. She is responsible for the strategic development of epigenetics and its research impact in society. During her PhD in Germany and a postdoc time in France, Astrid researched the causes of neurodegenerative diseases. She has held key positions in science management, strategy development and science policy. Since 2019 she is a certified MBSR Instructor and Mediator.

Antoine Lutz, France

Dr. Antoine Lutz is currently a director of research at the French Medical Research Institute (INSERM) in the Lyon Neuroscience Research Center (CNRL) where he co-leads the Experiential Neuroscience and Mental Training Team (EDUWELL). After a Master degree in engineering and a BA in philosophy at the Sorbonne under the direction of Natalie Depraz,  he did his PhD in cognitive neurosciences in Paris, France, with Francisco Varela where he applied for the first time his neurophenomenology program to study the neural correlates of attention and perception. Since 1998, he has studied meditation with various teachers including Mingyur Rinpoche, Tsoknyi Rinpoche, Matthieu Ricard and Joseph Goldstein.

During his postdoctoral work with Richard Davidson, at the University of Madison-Wisconsin, he studied using neuroimaging techniques meditation practices such as mindfulness or compassion meditations in expert meditators and in novices who learnt to meditate using the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program (MBSR). In 2008, Richard Davidson and him were awarded a NIH-NCCAM grant to fund in Madison the first American Center of Excellence on Research dedicated to neurophysiological study of meditation practices. After working for ten years in the US as a research scientist, he joined the Lyon Neuroscience Research Center in France in January 2013. His current research group focuses on the neurophenomenology of mindfulness and compassion meditations and on the impact of these practices on consciousness, attention and emotion regulations, and pain perception as measured by cognitive, affective and social neuroimaging paradigms using EEG, MEG, intra-cortical EEG, and fMRI.  This research is currently funded by a European ERC consolidator grant (Brain&Mindfulness, 2014-2021).

He is also currently collaborating to a European research consortium investigating the impacts of meditation practices on ageing and well-being as measured by brain imaging (PET, IRMf, DTI, EEG), biomarkers of ageing, and psycho-affective and cognitive behavioural measures (Meditageing, H2020, 2016-2021, study coordinated by Gaël Chételat, INSERM Caen, He recently started a collaboration investigating the neurocomputational principles of meditation (ANR MindMadeClear, coordinated by Hugues Mounier, CNRS).

Giuseppe Pagnoni, Italy

Giuseppe Pagnoni is Associate Professor at the Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy. After a Master in Physics, he completed a PhD in Neuroscience and has worked for several years in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, at Emory University, Atlanta (GA), USA. He has led and collaborated to neuroimaging studies on diverse topics including reward processing, the interaction of immune and brain function, social cognition, intrinsic brain activity, pain processing, mental effort, meditation. He is currently interested in the application of the predictive coding framework to the study of contemplative practices.

Claire Petitmengin, France

Claire Petitmengin is Professor Emerita in Philosophy at the Institut Mines-Télécom and member of the Archives Husserl, Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris. Her research focuses on the usually unrecognized dynamics of lived experience and “micro-phenomenological” methods enabling us to become aware of it and highlight its essential structures.

She studies the epistemological conditions of these methods, as well as their educational, therapeutic, artistic and contemplative applications. She currently devotes herself to exploring the links between the ecological crisis and our blindness to our lived experience.

Fabienne Picard, Switzerland

Prof. Fabienne Picard is neurologist in the EEG and Epilepsy Unit of the Neurology Department at the University Hospitals of Geneva. She holds a MD degree in medical studies in Neurology as well as a Diploma of Advanced Studies (DEA) in Cellular and Molecular Biology (neurobiology) from the Faculty of Medicine of Strasbourg, France and is internationally renowned in the field of epilepsy genetics.

Over the last ten years, her research has focused on the role of the insula in self-awareness through the study of “ecstatic” epilepsy, which symptoms show similarities with states of consciousness reached in meditation. She has published around 100 articles in peer-reviewed journals. 

Cornelius Pietzner, Switzerland

Cornelius Pietzner has served Mind & Life Europe on the Board of Directors for many years and formerly also as Co Director. He has served as Chief Executive Officer of Alterra Impact Finance GmbH, an impact investment firm in Switzerland. He is President of the Alterra Foundation, a Swiss charitable foundation that supports transformation initiatives related to a human-centered economy.

He was Chief Financial Officer on the Executive Board at the Goetheanum, General Anthroposophical Society, Switzerland with affiliates in 90 countries. He has had leading roles in social impact enterprises, financial management, philanthropy and investments. Cornelius Pietzner serves as Trustee/Advisory Board on a number of organisations and foundations in the USA and Europe. He received his degree in Political Science from Williams College, Mass. and was awarded a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship.

Father Francis Tiso, Italy

A New York native, Father Francis Tiso holds the A.B. in Medieval Studies from Cornell University.  He earned a Master of Divinity degree (cum laude) at Harvard University and holds a doctorate from Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary where his specialization was Buddhist studies. He translated several early biographies of the Tibetan yogi and poet, Milarepa, for his dissertation on sanctity in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. He has led research expeditions in South Asia, Tibet and the Far East, and his teaching interests include Christian theology, history of religions, spirituality, ecumenism and interreligious dialogue. 

Father Tiso was Associate Director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2004 to 2009, where he served as liaison to Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, the Sikhs, and the Reformed (Calvinist) Churches. Since 1988, Father Tiso is a priest of the Diocese of Isernia-Venafro, Italy, where he now serves as chaplain to the migrant communities in the Province of Isernia. He is President and Founder of the Association “Archbishop Ettore Di Filippo”, which serves migrant and vulnerable populations in the Province of Isernia. He was Diocesan Delegate for Ecumenical and Inter-religious Affairs from 1990 to 1998 (re-appointed in 2016) and rector of the Istituto Diocesano delle Scienze Religiose (1990-93).

Father Tiso is the author of Liberation in One Lifetime (2014) and Rainbow Body and Resurrection (2016), two books on Tibetan and inter-cultural studies. He is the recipient of grants from the American Academy of Religion, the American Philosophical Society, the Palmers Fund in Switzerland, and the Institute of Noetic Sciences in Petaluma, CA. He has served on the faculty of two MLE summer seminars in Germany.

Marieke van Vugt, The Netherlands

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.

Katherine Weare, United Kingdom

Katherine Weare is Professor at University of Exeter where she directs the MSc in Mindfulness and the Principal Investigator for the MLE Community of Contemplative Education (CCE) Initiative.

Katherine is known internationally for her work on well-being, social and emotional learning and mindfulness in education. She has published widely, reviewed the evidence base, advised the UK government, EU and WHO, and developed practical strategies in these fields across most European countries. Her recent best selling book, co-written with Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh ‘Happy Teachers Change The World’ is being translated into 10 languages. Katherine is a Mind & Life Europe Association member.