European Summer Research Institute

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.


ESRI 2023 will take place from August 20th to 24th (arrival date: 19th August) at the Lama Tzong Khapa Institute in Pomaia, Italy.  


The application for ESRI 2023 and the MLE Retreat is now open! Click here to apply. 

Application deadline extended to Friday, May 19th, 2023 at midnight CEST. 



What is ESRI?

Cross-disciplinary dialogue and collaboration

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.

ESRI 2023: “Sentience and Responsibility in Critical Times”


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 parterning 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.


Alongside ESRI 2023, Mind & Life Europe is also arranging an in-person MLE Retreat at the same venue, from August 17th - 18th, 2023 (arrival and welcome on 16th August). Find out more here.


ESRI 2023 Faculty


This year’s ESRI will bring together a remarkable faculty, representing the fields of neuroscience, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, AI, biology, legal studies, Buddhist studies, and more. A partial (and growing) list of names is included below:

Dr. Laura Candiotto

Dr. Jennifer Deger

Dr. Jay Garfield

Dr. Tirso Gonzalez

Ven. Gendun Losang

Dr. Maria Louw

Dr. Edel Maex

Dr. Josipa Mihic

Dr. Ven. Carola Roloff

Dr. Mark Sedgwick

Dr. Luc Steels

Dr. Christopher Timmermann

Dr. Martijn van Beek

Dr. Marieke van Vugt

Dr. Lieselotte Viaene

Dr. Andreas Weber

and more…!

Click on the names or scroll to the bottom of the page to see their bios! 

Who should attend


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

"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.


Senior Investigators

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.

About the Venue


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





MLE retreat

ESRI + retreat

Research Fellows

€ 600

€ 300

€ 800

Senior investigators

€ 800

€ 500

€ 1,200


€ 1000

€ 500

€ 1,400


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.


Financial Support

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.

How to Apply


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


Presenting your work

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: esri(at)

ESRI 2023 Faculty - Biographies

Dr. Laura Candiotto

Dr. Laura Candiotto is Associate Professor in Philosophy at the Centre for Ethics of the University of Pardubice, Czech Republic. She is also a Research Fellow of the Intercontinental Academia on “Intelligence and Artificial Intelligence” by UBIAS. Originally from Italy, she moved to Scotland, France, and Germany in the last seven years for carrying out different research projects. 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, 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 intertwining of the enactive and pragmatist approaches to affective habits and contributing to the development of an enactive ethics 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, and devotion in contemplative practices. Websites:;

Dr. Jennifer Deger

Jennifer Deger is co-director of the Centre for Creative Futures and Professor of Digital Humanities at Charles Darwin University. Her work moves through the intertidal zones of anthropology, art and environmental humanities. It finds form in film, digital media, experimental writing, and curation. For the past 25 years Jennifer has worked on media projects in northern Australia under Yol?u Aboriginal leadership. These intercultural and intergenerational collaborations continue to profoundly energise her commitments to co-creative research and its socially transformative potential. Together with Paul Gurrumuruwuy, Jennifer is a co-founder of Miyarrka Media, an arts collective based on Yol?u country in northeast Arnhem Land; co-author of their award winning book, Phone & Spear: a Yuta Anthropology. She is also co-curator with Anna Tsing, Alder Keleman Saxena and Feifei Zhou of the digital project Feral Atlas: the More-than-human Anthropocene and co-author of this team’s forthcoming book Field Guide to the Patchy Anthropocene.

Dr. Jay Garfield

Jay L. Garfield chairs the Philosophy department and 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. 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; the philosophy of the Scottish enlightenment methodology in cross-cultural interpretation; and topics in Buddhist philosophy, particularly Indo-Tibetan Madhyamaka and Yog?c?ra. He is the author or editor of over 30 books and nearly 200 articles, chapters, and reviews.

Ven. Gendun Losang

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 program for the long-term support of Western meditators, 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.

Dr. Edel Maex

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. 

Dr. Josipa Mihic

Josipa Mihic, 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.

Dr. Ven. Carola Roloff

Dr. Ven. Carola Roloff (Bhikkhuni 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 (Bhikkhuni 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&quot. 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: Email:

Dr. Mark Sedgwick

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).

Dr. 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.

Dr. 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.

Dr. Andreas Weber

Dr. Andreas Weber is a biologist, philosopher and writer. His work 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 Berlin University of the Arts, is Visiting Professor at the UNISG, Pollenzo, Italy, and holds an Adjunct Professorship at the IIT, Guwahati, India. He contributes to major German newspapers and magazines and has published more than a dozen books, most recently Enlivenment. A Poetics for the Anthropocene, MIT Press, 2019 and Sharing Life. The Ecopolitics of Reciprocity, Boell Foundation, 2020.

Photo credit: Florian Büttner