Varela International Symposium

An Exploration of Uncertainty and Emergence in Self and Society (2021)

About the event

The Varela International Symposium 2021 titled 'An Exploration of Uncertainty and Emergence in Self and Society' brings together a remarkable faculty to explore cutting edge areas of science, philosophy, and contemplative practices. Our world is rapidly shifting, with little that seems certain or predictable. The forces that both reflect and have influenced this tipping point, range from a viral pandemic to world-wide protests, from the climate catastrophe to economic instability. These global shifts have made it increasingly apparent that unique personal and social transformations emerge from the changing, dynamic interactions within the complex systems of our own brains and bodies, and within our equally complex societies and our environment.

In this year's program - co-organised with Upaya Institute and Zen Center, Nirakara and L'ADM - we have the opportunity to explore with leading scientists and scholars insights regarding the nature and consequences of uncertain emergent phenomena in complex systems, and what possibilities emergence creates for bringing forth a more equitable, just, and caring world.

>> Click here to watch all recordings of the symposium on our MLE YouTube channel.

Instructor(s): Roshi Joan Halifax, PhD; Richard Davidson, PhD; Evan Thompson, PhD; Amy Cohen Varela; Adam Frank, PhD; Sensei Al Kaszniak, PhD; John Dunne, PhD; Dr. Elena Antonova; Hanne De Jaegher, PhD. More information about the speakers can be found on the website of Upaya Institute and Zen Center.


Type of event

Conference (online). The Symposium will be held in English. Please note that all presentations will be translated into Spanish and French.

>> Click here to find all details about translation and registration.



May 14-16, 2021.

>> Click here for the schedule.


Cooperation partners

Upaya Institute and Zen Center (USA), Nirakara (Spain), Association pour le Développement de la Mindfulness (France/Switzerland/Belgium).

Languages and registration

  • English: the symposium will be held in English. Click here to register via the website of Upaya Institute and Zen Center.
  • Spanish:  Nirakara colabora con Upaya Institute and Zen Center, Mind & Life Europe y L'ADM para ofrecer traducción en español y soporte técnico al 'Varela International Symposium'. Haz click aqui para la traducción en español. (Nirakara collaborates with Upaya Zen Center to offer Spanish translation and technical support for Varela International Symposium. Click here for the Spanish translation.)
  • French:  L?ADM (Association pour le Développement de la Mindfulness) est partenaire de Upaya Zen Center, Mind & Life Europe et Nirakara dans le cadre de la rencontre internationale du 'Varela International Symposium' pour y apporter son soutien technique et offrir une traduction simultanée en Français. Merci de cliquer ici pour la traduction en Français et un lien vous sera communiqué ultérieurement. (The ADM (Association for the Development of Mindfulness) is partnering with Upaya Zen Center, Mind & Life Europe and Nirakara within the framework of the international meeting of the 'Varela symposium' to provide technical support and offer simultaneous translation in French. Please click here for the French translation and a link will be sent to you later.)



Friday, May 14, 2021

Welcome, Mind & Life Europe

(open to all)

09:00-10:00 AM


10:00-11:00 AM


11:00-12:00 PM


12:00-01:00 PM


04:00-05:00 PM


06:00-07:00 PM




04:30-05:30 PM


05:30-06:30 PM


06:30-07:30 PM


07:30-08:30 PM


11:30-12:30 AM

(ending on May 15)

01:30-02:30 AM

(Sat, May 15)



06:00-07:00 PM


07:00-08:00 PM


08:00-09:00 PM


09:00-10:00 PM


01:00-03:00 AM

(Sat, May 15)

03:00-05:00 AM

(Sat, May 15)



Saturday and Sunday, May 15 & 16, 2021

Guided Meditation


06:00-07:00 AM


07:00-08:00 AM


08:00-09:00 AM


09:00-10:00 AM


01:00-02:00 PM


03:00-04:00 PM




09:00-11:30 AM


10:00-12:30 PM


11:00-01:30 PM


12:00-02:30 PM


04:00-06:30 PM


06:00-08:30 PM




01:00-03:00 PM


02:00-04:00 PM


03:00-05:00 PM


04:00-06:00 PM


08:00-10:00 PM


10:00-12:00 PM




04:30-05:30 PM


05:30-06:30 PM


06:30-07:30 PM


07:30-08:30 PM


11:30 - 00:30 AM

(ending on May 16/17)

01:30-02:30 AM

(Sat/Sun, May 16/17)