Mind & Life Europe Retreat

>> Scroll down to find out about the August 2022 Retreat! 

The MLE Retreat was first organized by Mind & Life Europe in 2019, following the tradition of the European Summer Research Institute (ESRI) to support young scholars in the area of contemplative studies.

In the original vision of Francisco J. Varela, the integration of Western science and the wisdom traditions hinges upon the emergence of a generation of scholar-practitioners who have existentially succeeded – to some degree and each in their own way – in giving adequate space to their contemplative practice and their professional training. By their very nature, as both life in general and contemplative processes are unpredictable, integrating these two dimensions necessarily asks us to make continuous adjustments, choices, and reorientations. It brings rewards, but it also exacts a cost. For those of us who feel drawn to or compelled by this type of existential project, the path is strewn with challenges. Again and again we find ourselves standing at the edge. 


About the MLE Retreat

This MLE Retreat offers an opportunity to systematically explore our individual trajectories, motivations, challenges, and opportunities using contemplative practice and other tools for self-exploration and self-development. What choices and circumstances have brought us to where we are? What is it we are striving for and why? How might we move forward towards this goal? What might be the cost, and are we willing to pay it? 

Emphasizing both individual and group work, and employing an intensive contemplative and dialogic approach, the retreat is facilitated by experienced scholar-practitioners. As contemplative practice will be a key element of the retreat, younger and/or early-career academics and professionals who have an established, regular meditation practice are encouraged to apply. The MLE Retreat is open to all, but it is preferable if one has already participated in one or more Mind & Life Institute or Mind & Life Europe events. 

We will spend this precious time together continuing and building upon the work begun during previous MLE Retreats and Community Practice Days, providing an opportunity to take stock of our past experiences and deepen our exploration. We will also familiarize ourselves with additional practices that may inspire and help us to navigate our personal and collective journeys. And finally, we will use this opportunity to strengthen our sense of connection and community. First-time participants are also most welcome to apply.

MLE Retreat August 2022 (in-person)

We are very happy to announce the next Mind & Life Europe retreat (MLE Retreat) for young academics and professionals. The application period for the MLE Retreat has now closed, successful applicants will be informed in due course via email. 

The retreat will be an in-person retreat connected to the European Summer Research Institute 2022, taking place at The Lama Tzong Khapa Institute in Pomaia, Italy, from August 26th - 28th, 2022. For more information about ESRI 2022 please visit our ESRI webpage. 

Program information: The retreat begins at 4pm on Friday 26th August, and finishes at 2pm on Sunday 28th August. A more complete schedule for the retreat will be available soon.

Contemplating Connection

The world’s wisdom traditions emphasize the interconnectedness of humans and other species, our planet, and the cosmos beyond. Science shares this perspective. Albert Einstein referred to the idea of a human being as somehow separate from everything else as a kind of optical illusion of our consciousness. Realizing this insight as a way of being in relationship with ourselves, with others, and with the world is at the heart of contemplative life. And although each of us walks our own path, the unfolding of the journey is always in and through connection – with fellow students and practitioners, with teachers, and with the lineages of realization and wisdom that reach across time and space.

This Mind and Life Europe Retreat seeks to provide inspiration and tools for (re)discovering our innate resources for orienting ourselves, for recognizing how we arrived at where we are in our lives at present – standing at the edge – and how we might take a next step.

August 2022 Retreat Program

Friday, 26 August:
14.00 – 16.00: Arrival and registration
16.00 – 18.30: Introductions
18.30 – 19.30: Break
19.30 – 20.30: Dinner
20.30 – 21.30: Evening session
Saturday, 27 August:
07.00 – 08.00: Body work and meditation
08.00 – 09.30: Breakfast
09.30 – 12.30: Morning session (incuding tea break)
12.30 – 15.00: Lunch and break
15.00 – 19.00: Afternoon session (including tea break)
19.00 – 19.30: Break
19.30 – 20.30: Dinner
20.30 – 21.30: Evening session
Sunday, 28 August:
07.00 – 08.00: Body work and meditation
08.00 – 09.30: Breakfast
09.30 – 12.30: Morning session (including tea break)
12.30: Lunch and departures

Please note: timings are CET (GMT+1). The whole program will be in-person. This program is subject to change depending on how the retreat unfolds. The program language is English.

Suggested Reading

Some inspirational readings and quotes:

“Guidelines for Long-term Retreats,” by Jes Bertelsen

Excerpt from Philip D. Clayton, Interview with Francisco Varela
Unpublished excerpt from Francisco J. Varela - Science and Buddhism | Lineages and Circles

Contemplative life as an existential pursuit

  • “Basic training on the Buddhist path involves working with our whole being—body, speech, and mind. Nothing is left out.”
    ~ Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche
  • “We meditate with our mind, which is part of our being. But we contemplate with our whole being and not just with one of its parts.”
    ~ Thomas Merton
  • “As soon as we start considering meditation from an ethical and existential perspective, we realize the inadequacy of thinking of it as primarily a cognitive process directed toward realizing the ‘truth’. [...] in coming to know intimately the impermanent, tragic, and empty aspects of life, one opens oneself to unsuspected affective and aesthetic possibilities of experience as well.”
    ~ Stephen Batchelor

MLE Retreat March 2022 (online)

Standing at the Edge in Contemplative Life: Integrating personal, professional, and spiritual aspects of our path

The March 2022 online retreat was led and taught by Hanneli Ågotsdatter and Martijn Van Beek. The retreat loosely focused on the theme of “standing at the edge,” which has provided inspiration for the current year of inquiry at Mind & Life Europe, weaving itself into the various events and programs of 2022. “Standing at the edge” can be understood in a multitude of ways: in the context of this retreat, we have in mind how contemplative life involves a process of discovering, meeting, exploring and – when we are ready – crossing over edges and boundaries into unknown terrain, in an inner as well as an existential sense. Again and again, in our inner practice and our experience, as we seek to integrate personal, professional and spiritual aspects of our lives more deeply, we come to stand at the edge of the territory with which we are familiar and comfortable. 

Participants explored and shared experiences of discovering, meeting and transcending these kinds of boundaries: when we find ourselves standing at the edge, where might we find help to orient ourselves? What might we rely on? And where can we find the wisdom to know whether we should pause for a while or push ahead, laying down a path in walking as we enter an unknown inner and, also most likely, outer territory? As with all shifting horizons, as we advance, we will continually find ourselves standing at some new edge, wondering what the next step will be… 

MLE Retreat 2019

Themed "Exploring Contemplative Life: Integrating personal, professional and spiritual aspects of our path", the MLE Retreat 2019 took place directly after the Contemplative Science Symposium in Fürstenfeldbruck, Germany.

The MLE Retreat was led by Martijn van Beek and Hanneli Ågotsdatter. More than thirty partipants from eighteen countries made these two days a unique experience.

Get some insights from the MLE Retreat 2019 by checking out our MLE Retreat Review.


I have found the MLE Retreat of 2019 different than all the retreats I had attended due to a consistent presence of a fusion of contemplative reflection, dialogue, and Yoga, along with formal meditation practices... almost like a supervised contemplative lifestyle retreat with like and better-minded people. I have also found the "togetherness" of the MLE Retreat and the community practice day to be an extremely enriching experience, that is not only a mind-soother on a personal level, but also a knowledge widener on a professional level for me.

- Henna Kamble,  2019 MLE Retreat Participant