Standing at the Edge | Events

Previous Events

Mind Matters

Standing at the Edge

May 25th 

Webinar with Dr. Barry Kerzin 

"No Center, No Edge: Letting Go of a Fixed Identity"

This event was live-streamed on the MLE YouTube channel. Watch the recording here


MLE Friends

Standing at the Edge

April 27th

Webinar with Luisa Damiano 

"Social Robotics: On the Edges of the Brain, Body, and Environment"

(exclusive access for MLE Friends) 


MLE Retreat 

Standing at the Edge

March 11th - 13th, 2022

MLE Online Retreat 2022: "Standing at the Edge in Contemplative Life: Integrating personal, professional, and spiritual aspects of our path"online

MLE Friends

Standing at the Edge

February 9th 

Webinar with Edel Maex

Theme: Walking at the edge: A psychiatrist's practice of Zen and Mindfulness

(exclusive access for MLE Friends)


Standing at the Edge

January 26th

'Standing at the Edge': 2022 Opening Panel 

with Roshi Joan Halifax, Father Francis Tiso, Marieke van Vugt, John Dunne, Andreas Roepstorff, Catherine Bastien-Ventura, Martijn van Beek.

This event was live-streamed on the MLE YouTube channelClick here to watch the recording!



'Mind Matters' webinar with Barry Kerzin


"No Center, No Edge: Letting Go of a Fixed Identity"

Date & Time: Join us on Wednesday, May 25th at 15:00 CEST

Access: This event is open to the public and will also be live-streamed on the MLE YouTube channel.

Click here to watch the recording

We live our lives wearing blinders. Blinders narrow our experience by limiting our perspective. We take for granted that we are “here” and everything else is “over there.” Is this true? This egocentric perspective assumes that “I” am the center of the world, and everything revolves around “me.” Yet the next person assumes the same around her / she / him / he / they / them. And the next person, and the next person…

Taking off the blinders opens our perspective to the vast expanse of reality. Nothing short of total relaxation and alertness are required. Letting go of our attachment to experiencing the world through our eyes, ears and senses is required. This perspective which we adopt most of the time, takes us outward utilizing the first five primary minds associated with the senses. Dropping into the 6th mind of mental consciousness, which is independent of the senses, takes us inward. This 6th primary mind has levels of subtlety. Grossest is thinking, using concepts. Subtler is the nonconceptual mind. Subtlest is the nondual mind. Meditating on the subtle levels of the 6th mind brings inner peace and moves us towards enlightenment.

Falling down the rabbit hole we leave the world of “here” and “there.” There is no center. There is no edge. There is only pure being. Let’s explore pure being together.

About the speaker: Ven. Dr. Barry Kerzin is medical doctor, Buddhist monk, Adjunct Professor at the Univ. of Pittsburgh, Adjunct Prof. at HKU, and Honorary Prof. at the Mongolian National Univ. of Medical Sciences. He is the founder and president of the Altruism in Medicine Institute (AIMI) and founder and chairman of the Human Values Institute (HVI) in Japan. For 33 years he has been providing free medical care to the poor up to high lamas including HH Dalai Lama. He trains compassion for 18,000 nurses at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the Pittsburgh Police, and Pittsburgh Parks and Recreation department. He lectures around the world. Barry has completed a 3-year retreat, and his brain has been studied at Princeton University and the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He has authored four books.

'MLE Friends' webinar with Luisa Damiano

"Social Robotics: On the Edges of Brain, Body and, Environment"

Date & Time: Join us on Wednesday, April 27th at 18:00 CEST

Access: This event is exclusive to MLE Friends. To become an MLE Friend click here.

Speaker: Dr. Luisa Damiano, Associate Professor of Logic and Philosophy of Science at the IULM University (Milan, Italy)

Social robotics is an emerging area of contemporary robotics, dedicated to building robots capable of interacting with us humans through social signals that are compatible with ours. Among these signals, specialists in social robotics recognize affective signals as particularly important for the quality of the interaction. The ability of robots to communicate with humans through emotions is regarded as an essential ingredient to create for these machines a convincing “social presence”, apt to stimulate humans to see in them not mere tools, but “social partners” - artificial interlocutors. Due to this focus on “artificial empathy” and “artificial sociality”, social robotics establishes itself as a branch of engineering whose target is not only the production of new machines, but also the creation of new social relations – “human-robot social relations”.

Current developments in social robotics could spread this novel, socially connotated form of human-machine interaction on a large scale.The contemporary scenario of the growing diffusion of these robots draws our attention to the issue of their "social sustainability”, which polarizes the debate into either an enthusiastic acceptance of this technology or an outright condemnation of it. The present talk is committed to building a critical position, external to this polarization, based on an epistemological inquiry into how social robotics constructs emotional and social interactions between humans and robots. This reading of human-robot affective and social interaction, grounded in an “epistemology of participation” (F. Varela), leads the talk to propose a new ethical approach to the sustainable diffusion of social robots, and, most importantly, a message about the importance of our epistemological views, which can have a concrete impact on our future and the future of our social and environmental ecologies.


Dr. Luisa Damiano is Associate Professor of Logic and Philosophy of Science at the IULM University (Milan, Italy), and the coordinator of the Research Group on the Epistemology of the Sciences of the Artificial (RG-ESA). Her main research areas are: Epistemology of Complex Systems, Epistemology of the Cognitive Sciences, and Epistemology of the Sciences of the Artificial. Since 2007, she has been working on these topics with scientific teams all across Europe and in Japan. Among her publications there are many articles, the books Unità in dialogo (Bruno Mondadori, 2009) and Living with robots (with Paul Dumouchel, Harvard University Press, 2017) and several co-edited journal special issues. For more information about her interdisciplinary work, click here

MLE Online Retreat | March 2022

Standing at the Edge in Contemplative Life: Integrating personal, professional, and spiritual aspects of our path

MLE Online Retreat, March 11th - 13th

The March 2022 online retreat was led and taught by Hanneli Ågotsdatter and Martijn Van Beek. The retreat loosely focused on the theme of “standing at the edge,” which has provided inspiration for the current year of inquiry at Mind & Life Europe, weaving itself into the various events and programs of 2022. “Standing at the edge” can be understood in a multitude of ways: in the context of this retreat, we have in mind how contemplative life involves a process of discovering, meeting, exploring and – when we are ready – crossing over edges and boundaries into unknown terrain, in an inner as well as an existential sense. Again and again, in our inner practice and our experience, as we seek to integrate personal, professional and spiritual aspects of our lives more deeply, we come to stand at the edge of the territory with which we are familiar and comfortable. 

Participants explored and shared experiences of discovering, meeting and transcending these kinds of boundaries: when we find ourselves standing at the edge, where might we find help to orient ourselves? What might we rely on? And where can we find the wisdom to know whether we should pause for a while or push ahead, laying down a path in walking as we enter an unknown inner and, also most likely, outer territory? As with all shifting horizons, as we advance, we will continually find ourselves standing at some new edge, wondering what the next step will be… 

MLE Friends webinar with Dr. Edel Maex

"Walking at the Edge: A Psychiatrist's Practice of Zen and Mindfulness", February 9th, 2022

In his talk, Dr. Edel Maex shared with us some of the riches of his long experience as a psychiatrist teaching mindfulness and as a Zen practitioner and teacher. Starting from Platform Sutra, a landmark teaching of the Chan tradition of Buddhism, he unfolded two ways of relating — what he calls the “narrative mode” and the “presence mode”. He specifically explored how the two are inextricably linked, like the front and back foot in walking, and how the two modes have informed his professional experience as a psychiatrist. This talk should be of interest to practitioners and non-practitioners alike, as it will point to the universal ways that we attempt to navigate the edges between certainty and uncertainty. 

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 on mindfulness and Buddhism.

Access to this webinar was excluisve to MLE Friends.

Inaugural Panel Discussion

On January 26th we held an interdisciplinary panel with eight prominent philosophers, scientists, educators, and contemplatives who explored the theme "Standing at the Edge" through the lens of their individual disciplines and insights.

Watch the discussion now! 

Click here to read the concept note

Panel Members: 

  • Amy Cohen Varela 
  • Andreas Roepstorff 
  • Catherine Bastien-Ventura
  • Father Francis Tiso 
  • Roshi Joan Halifax
  • John Dunne
  • Marieke van Vugt
  • Martijn van Beek 

This event was live-streamed on the MLE YouTube channel.

About the Panel Speakers

Amy Cohen Varela

Amy Cohen Varela is the Chairperson of the Mind & Life Europe Board and has been involved with Mind & 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 1980s, where she received her degree in clinical psychology (with a specialty in psychodynamic theory and practice) at the University of Paris 7, and in parallel she completed the psychoanalytic training.

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.

Catherine Bastien-Ventura

Trained as a biologist in toxicology and pharmacology, Catherine Bastien-Ventura worked as 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 sector and private companies (Rhodia, Schneider Electric, Hutchinson).

Research project manager for the French Ministry of Environment, within the research and foresight department, she was in charge of programs dealing with different types of pollution and their consequences on ecosystems. 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.

During the last years she was the international cooperation officer for French research networks dealing with area studies throughout Asia, Africa, Middle East and Muslim World. 

She recently developed a strategy and development consulting activity for basic research and international cooperation.

Father Francis Tiso

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).

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.

John Dunne

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.

Marieke van Vugt

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.

Martijn van Beek

Martijn van Beek is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and affiliated with the Interacting Minds Centre, both at Aarhus University, Denmark.

Having previously spent many years working and conducting research in Ladakh and elsewhere in the Himalayan region, his current research explores the meeting ground between contemplative traditions, especially Buddhism, consciousness research and modernity.

One of the goals of his current research is to contribute to refining our understanding of the significance of the spread of mindfulness and related forms of modern contemplative practice for people and for society today. He is also engaged in research on the (micro--) phenomenology of contemplative experience.

Martijn teaches on contemplative life in context, in theory and in practice at Aarhus University; in the programme “Training Empathy” for professionals working with children and young adults offered by Børns Livskundskab, The Danish Society for the Promotion of Life Wisdom in Children; and at Vaekstcenter, the intentional community where he lives, and elsewhere.