European Varela Awards

Now it's not going to be my generation. It's going to be the young people who get enthusiastic about this paradigm of neurophenomenology and realise that they themselves have to acquire that learning. So then in the next generation these competences can be combined.

-- Francisco J. Varela

EVA Recipients

Recipients of the European Varela Awards (EVAs) come from all over the world and are engaged in different research projects.

Impact to date

Each year, the European Varela Awards (EVAs) grants up to 17.500 Euro to different projects in the area of contemplative studies.

EVA Alumni

Mentoring is an essential component of fostering the next generation of contemplative scientists. 

Varela Grants

Named after the neuroscientist and philosopher Francisco J. Varela, The European Varela Awards have been an important and integral component of Mind & Life Europe's support of contemplative scientists and scholars. Francisco believed that contemplative training offers modern science novel methods for investigating human experience. In his vision, contemplative training not only provides a new domain for scientific study, but it also offers resources for advancing scientific theories and models of cognition, emotion, and consciousness.

The Varela Grants were established by the Mind & Life Institute in 2004 as a companion program to the Mind & Life Summer Research Institutes (MLSRI) and have been a critical element in supporting the development of Contemplative Science and Contemplative Studies. Following this, in 2014, Mind & Life Europe established the European Summer Research Institute (ESRI) and the European Varela Awards (EVAs) which have been supporting the young generation of contemplative researchers ever since. 

Funding Remit

The Varela Grants and the European Varela Awards fund rigorous examinations of contemplative practices with the ultimate goal of providing greater insight into their cognitive, affective, neurobiological and socio-cultural effects, as well as their application for reducing human suffering and promoting flourishing. The funding program is an essential feature of Mind & Life's overall strategy of building an interdisciplinary understanding of the mind and a key vehicle for increasing the number of exemplary scientists, scholars and clinicians involved in contemplative sciences. Preference is given to interdisciplinary studies that incorporate first-person research methods (e.g. microphenomenological interviews and introspective reports on subjective experience) into traditional cognitive, behavioral, physiological, clinical, or socio-cultural research.

The funding program also encourages the active collaboration of researchers with contemplative scholars/practitioners in all phases of investigation. The proposals funded under the scheme meet the highest standards of rigor in the applicant's field of expertise, but often do not quality for the mainstream sources of funding due to their specialized/novel nature.

Impact to date

Since 2014, the European Varela Awards at Mind & Life Europe has supported 51 projects with more than €717,350 awarded to junior scientists in the field of contemplative studies. As a result, there has been a significant increase in the scholarly articles being published in top-tier, peer-reviewed, scientific journals reporting cognitive, behavioral, neurobiological, and clinical effects of contemplative practices.

Grants of up to €17,500 are awarded annually through a competitive application and selection process.

Research conducted with the support of the European Varela Awards will be the future basis of the emerging fields of Contemplative Science and Contemplative Studies. Today's researchers will be tomorrow's leaders in the exploration of the mind.


To be eligible for the European Varela Award, the applicant must have attended the European Mind & Life Europe Summer Research Institute (ESRI) within the last five years, OR participated in the Contemplative Science Symposium (CSS) and any Mind & Life Europe Retreats between 2019 and 2021.
The EVA is intended as a career development award, and is open to:

  • Graduate (PhD) students (ideally within their 1st or 2nd year of registration if full-time);

  • Post-doctoral fellows affiliated with a research institution or university;

  • Post-doctoral researchers on fixed terms contracts of at least 2 years' duration (if your contract is due to expire prior to the proposed timeline for completion of the EVA project if awarded, you will need to provide a confirmation from your supervisor/line manager that your contract will be extended or there will be other funding available to support your salary/living costs for the duration of the award);

  • Junior faculty (i.e. lecturers) up to the fifth year (inclusive) of university appointment.

For questions about the eligibility, please have a look at our Frequently Ask Questions (FAQ) and see our Request for Proposals for cycle 2021 to find out more about the application process. *There will be a new Request for Proposals released for the 2022 cycle.

EVA Recipients and EVA Alumni

We are proud to present our current and former recipients of the European Varela Awards (EVAs) and their research projects. Click here to learn more about the awardees and their background, the themes as well as aims and methods of their proejcts.

Mentoring is an essential component of fostering the next generation of contemplative scientists. It is an opportunity to share 'pearls of wisdom' with those who are only starting on this journey, supporting the contemplative community of scientists to grow, expand, and strengthen. Who is better to do it then our EVA success stories! These EVA alumni members offer prospective EVA applicants mentoring advice: for example, how best to present your EVA application or guidance on securing further funding and a research post to ensure career progression. To proceed to our EVA Alumni page, please click here.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

For any questions about the European Varela Awards please have a look at our Frequently Ask Questions (FAQ).

For more information please e-mail VarelaAwards(at)