Application procedure

European Varela Awards 2020 - (EVAs)

Awards information

Grants of up to €17,500 are awarded annually through a competitive application process. Applications are reviewed and selected based on the following criteria:

  • Significance to the field
  • Methodological approach/design and feasibility
  • Innovation and novelty
  • Quality of the applicant, likelihood of success and future contribution to the field
  • Strength of academic/research environment

Application deadline

The application period runs from 28 September - 26 October 2020, but has been extended to November 30th. The awardees will be announced at in March 2021.


To be eligible for a European Varela Award (EVA), the applicant must have attended the European Mind & Life Summer Research Institute in the last five years or have participated in the Contemplative Science Symposium (CSS) 2019 and MLE Retreat 2019. This grant is intended as a career development award, and is open to graduate students and post-doctoral fellows currently affiliated with a research institution as well as junior faculty up to their fifth year (inclusive) of university appointment.

Award conditions and deliverables

Proposed research should be completed within a two-year period; annual progress reports are required for awardees to remain in good standing. It is expected that the completion of proposed research will result in a peer-reviewed publication (scientific journal article) or book/book chapter, as well as a scholarly presentation at a professional conference.

Varela award funds may not be used for PI (or Co-I) salary/indirect costs or institutional overheads.

Application process

To apply, please submit the following materials before 30 November through the online application system:

  • Completed Application Form: includes research proposal and budget.
  • Project Summary/Abstract (250 words maximum)
  • Applicant’s and study team members’ abbreviated CVs or NIH-style biosketches (in one pdf - limit each to 4 pages maximum)
  • Two letters of recommendation (pdf). Letters should speak to the ability of the applicant to perform the proposed research and his/her potential to develop a fruitful program of research and contribute to the growing field of contemplative sciences.

Background to the Varela Awards

The Varela Awards are an integral component of Mind & Life’s support of contemplative sciences— a growing field investigating contemplative practices through research in diverse disciplines ranging from basic and clinical sciences to social sciences and the humanities. Beginning in 2004 and named after one of Mind and Life’s cofounders, neuroscientist Francisco J. Varela (1946–2001), these grants of up to €17,500 are awarded annually to early-career scientists and scholars who have attended the European Mind & Life Summer Research Institute (ESRI) or the CSS & MLE Retreat 2019.

The Varela Awards fund rigorous examinations of contemplative techniques with the ultimate goal of providing greater insight into contemplative practices and their application for reducing human suffering and promoting flourishing. Mind & Life Europe views the European Varela Awards as an essential feature of its overall strategy of building an interdisciplinary understanding of the mind and human behavior. These awards are a key vehicle for increasing the number of exemplary scientists, scholars and clinicians involved in contemplative sciences.

Much has been learned already through empirical investigations of the effects of contemplative practices and techniques on emotion regulation, attention, working memory, and associated neural plasticity. Furthermore, contemplative practices are being increasingly used in secular settings, including mental health, education and workplace. However, much remains to be understood regarding the relationship between different elements of contemplative interventions and their desired outcomes. But also the differences in outcomes across populations and contexts, relative beneficial effects of contemplative practices when presented within a wider spiritual framework vs. secular setting, as well as ethical issues surrounding implementation of such interventions in different contexts. The intrinsic embodied nature of contemplative practices calls for experiential categories, typologies, and language that could extend the terminology of cognitive science beyond such useful but limiting terms as attention and working memory. In all of these areas, contributions from the humanities and social sciences are invaluable in providing conceptual and contextual grounding to advance the study of contemplative practices and their theoretical underpinnings.

Francisco J. Varela