Named after the neuroscientist and philosopher Francisco J. Varela, the Mind & Life Francisco J. Varela Grants (Varela Grants) have been an important and integral component of Mind & Life’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 – and more importantly – offers resources for advancing scientific theories and models of cognition, emotion, and consciousness.
The Varela Grants were established 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. Since the introduction of the European Summer Research Institute (ESRI) in 2014, Mind & Life Europe has been supporting the young generation of contemplative researchers with the European Varela Awards (EVAs).
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.
Since 2004, the Mind & Life Institute has distributed more than $2,700,000 in funding to support junior scientists in the field of contemplative science with over 190 Varela Grants. 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. Amongst them, 230 scholarly articles have been published resulting from Varela Grants projects, and hundreds of scientific presentations have been given at conferences and special lectures. Furthermore, the relatively modest awards have been leveraged into more than $100 million in follow-on funding for awardees.
Through the European Varela Awards, Mind & Life Europe has supported 40 projects with more than 525,000 Euros awarded to junior scientists in the field of contemplative studies.
Research conducted with the support of Varela Grants and 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 a European Varela Award, researchers and scholars must have attended the European Summer Research Institute (ESRI) or the Contemplative Science Symposium (CSS) & MLE Retreat 2019 within five years of their application. 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.
For questions about the eligibility, please have a look at our Frequently Ask Questions (FAQ).
Attendees of the ESRI are eligible to apply for the Francisco J. Varela Awards for Contemplative research.
EVA Recipients and EVA Alumni
Click here to learn more about current and former recipients of the European Varela Awards (EVAs) and their research projects.
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)mindandlife-europe.org.