Webinar Series: Francisco & Friends

'Francisco & Friends: an Embodiment of Relationship'

Webinar with the Dalai Lama (June 9, 2021)

The first event of the 'Francisco & Friends' series was a live webinar with the Dalai Lama with the title 'Dialogue for a Better World  Remembering Francisco Varela'

About the webinar series: themes and questions

In the context of this celebratory year, we are focussing on the themes of friendship and relationship linked with Francisco Varela and on the influence of 'The Embodied Mind'.

Antoine Lutz and Jean-Philippe Lachaux

Our next special guests are Antoine Lutz and Jean-Philippe Lachaux  (October 13), with the topic: "The Francisco Varela Experience- are you experienced?"

The webinar series: 'Francisco & Friends: an Embodiment of Relationship'

This year Mind & Life Europe is paying tribute to two anniversaries: the 20th of Francisco’s passing in 2001 and the 30th of the publication of The Embodied Mind. Hence the overall title of our program is 'Embodiment and Enaction – Varela & Friends 20/30'.

It was on May 28th, 2001, when our dear friend, co-founder of Mind & Life, Francisco Varela passed away. In June we launched a new webinar series within the overall program, spanning throughout the rest of the year, titled Francisco & Friends: an Embodiment of Relationship’. In this series Francisco’s friends, colleagues and dialogue partners share their personal experiences and insights working with him, and where their special relationship led them in their life and work. We started this series with two special minds, great friends of Francisco, the Dalai Lama (June 9), and Evan Thompson (June 14).

In the Fall we continue the series with another two great friends of Francisco and MLE, Jon Kabat-Zinn (September 9) and Roshi Joan Halifax (September 23).

About the series of webinars: in the context of our celebratory year, we would like to center the contributions to this webinar series on the themes of friendship and relationship linked with Francisco Varela, and on the life and influence of the book he wrote with Evan Thompson and Eleanor Rosch, The Embodied Mind, in which the concept of enaction is introduced.

Themes & Questions

Each webinar of the 'Francisco & Friends' series will be dedicated to a particular theme, related to a question. The themes will cover to the following topics:

  • Relationships to Francisco and his work: We are particularly interested in the ethical dimension, in the transformative aspect of relationship, and in how interaction (what Francisco used to call “rubbing”) may give rise to moments of insight, and to experiences that are so particularly striking that they cause a lasting change in us, deeply shaping ourselves and our paths.

  • Novel research programs set in motion at the founding of Mind & Life

  • Enaction: Enaction is an approach to living and knowing that is based on relationship, and in this sense, we feel it can act as a “teacher” for us at Mind & Life Europe, helping us to align what we do with how we do it. Here the ethical dimension of the bond, the responsibility yoked to all friendship, is fully in play. Enaction is pertinent for our “self-regulation” as an organisation, how we engage with one another and with the world, for how we envision our life as a community, and also for how we envisage our science, discern our “content” and choose the paths that are useful for us to pursue. The Embodied Mind is the groundbreaking book where the enactive approach is introduced and unfolded, and we would like to celebrate its 30th birthday in the “Francisco and Friends” webinar series.

  • Relationship of spirituality and science

Dates & Overview


June 9, 2021

05:30 CEST

Dialogue for a Better World – Remembering Francisco Varela

Click here to watch the recording of the live webinar with the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama

June 14, 2021

18:00 CEST

What is Enaction? – A New Relationship Between Our Mind and the World

Click here to watch the recording of the live webinar with Evan Thompson.

Evan Thompson

September 9, 2021

18:00 CEST

Where is the Ground? – Reminiscences on Early Conversations with Francisco on the Gesture of Awareness, Embodiment, and MBSR

Click here to watch the recording of the live webinar with Jon Kabat Zinn.

Jon Kabat-Zinn

September 23, 2021

18:00 CEST

Continuous Groundlessness, Continuous Discovery – Meeting Francisco in Practice

Click here to watch the recording of the live webinar with Roshi Joan Halifax.

Roshi Joan Halifax

October 13, 2021

18:00 CEST

The Francisco Varela experience – are you experienced?

Click here to register now! This event will have simultaneous French interpretation (avec l'interpretation simultanée en français) 

The online event will be live-streamed on our MLE YouTube channel.

Antoine Lutz and Jean-Philippe Lachaux

November 24, 2021

18:00 CET

Why would a neurobiologist become interested in Buddhist Philosophy?

The online event will be live-streamed on our MLE YouTube channel.

Wolf Singer

December 9, 2021

18:00 CET

Why colour is still a good case study of embodied cognition and enaction?

The online event will be live-streamed on our MLE YouTube channel.

Valerie Bonnardel


Please note: all 'Francisco & Friends' webinars will be live-streamed on our MLE YouTube channel.


Upcoming Events

Live webinar with Antoine Lutz and Jean-Philippe Lachaux (October 13)

Theme: “The Francisco Varela experience – are you experienced?”

This webinar with Antoine Lutz and Jean-Philippe Lachaux will take place on October 13 at 6pm CEST. This event will consist of a dialogue between two doctoral students of Francisco (40 mins) followed by a live Q&A (40 mins) with online participants. 

Register here to participate in the webinar via Zoom. This event will also be live-streamed on the MLE YouTube channel 




About Antoine Lutz

Dr. Antoine Lutz is currently a director of research at the French Medical Research Institute (INSERM) in the Lyon Neuroscience Research Center (CNRL) where he co-leads the Experiential Neuroscience and Mental Training Team (EDUWELL). After a Master degree in engineering and a BA in philosophy at the Sorbonne under the direction of Natalie Depraz,  he did his PhD in cognitive neurosciences in Paris, France, with Francisco Varela where he applied for the first time his neurophenomenology program to study the neural correlates of attention and perception. Since 1998, he has studied meditation with various teachers including Mingyur Rinpoche, Tsoknyi Rinpoche, Matthieu Ricard and Joseph Goldstein.

During his postdoctoral work with Richard Davidson, at the University of Madison-Wisconsin, he studied using neuroimaging techniques meditation practices such as mindfulness or compassion meditations in expert meditators and in novices who learnt to meditate using the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program (MBSR). In 2008, Richard Davidson and him were awarded a NIH-NCCAM grant to fund in Madison the first American Center of Excellence on Research dedicated to neurophysiological study of meditation practices. After working for ten years in the US as a research scientist, he joined the Lyon Neuroscience Research Center in France in January 2013. His current research group focuses on the neurophenomenology of mindfulness and compassion meditations and on the impact of these practices on consciousness, attention and emotion regulations, and pain perception as measured by cognitive, affective and social neuroimaging paradigms using EEG, MEG, intra-cortical EEG, and fMRI.  This research is currently funded by a European ERC consolidator grant (Brain&Mindfulness, 2014-2021).

He is also currently collaborating to a European research consortium investigating the impacts of meditation practices on ageing and well-being as measured by brain imaging (PET, IRMf, DTI, EEG), biomarkers of ageing, and psycho-affective and cognitive behavioural measures (Meditageing, H2020, 2016-2021, study coordinated by Gaël Chételat, INSERM Caen, https://silversantestudy.fr). He recently started a collaboration investigating the neurocomputational principles of meditation (ANR MindMadeClear, coordinated by Hugues Mounier, CNRS).

About Jean-Philippe Lachaux

Dr. Jean-Philippe Lachaux leads the EDUWELL team with Antoine Lutz at the Neuroscience Research Center of Lyon, France. He obtained his PhD in 1997 under the supervision of Francisco Varela, showing that high-frequency neural activity picked up by intracranial EEG (iEEG) reveals neural activation and deactivation with millimetric and millisecond precision in the human brain. Since then, he has used that appraoch extensively to reveal the large-scale dynamics of major cognitive functions, including attention, language and memory. He turned that technique into the first system to map and monitor human cognitive networks in real-time and ecological conditions (BrainTV). More recently, he has developed the first French progam to teach attention in schools (ATOLE), with tens of thousands children now learning nationwide.  

Previous events

Live webinar with the Dalai Lama (June 9, 2021)

Theme: 'Dialogue for a Better World – Remembering Francisco Varela'

The Dalai Lama developed and maintained a very special relationship with Francisco, leading to the creation of Mind & Life and its field-defining interdisciplinary work at the intersections of sciences and contemplative practice. Pier Luigi Luisi, Amy Cohen Varela and Elena Antonova will enter into a shared space of remembering Francisco and of dialogue on friendship and its effects on the world with the Dalai Lama.

We are embedded in a habitat of relationships and our singular life and our life’s work are formed and indeed, sometimes transformed by them. Francisco had an extraordinary openness to relationships, their comforts and their risks. He was both single-pointed and gregarious, concentrated and porous. Each stage of his life was marked by significant encounters with others who inspired and shaped his thinking. Mind & Life sprouted from a friendship, a strong connection that flowered into a scientific project.

Of course, both Francisco Varela and the Dalai Lama came to the first meeting (1987) with their motivations: Francisco had a vision of meditators as exemplary experts of mind, his object of study, and the Dalai Lama had a well-known interest for Western science, and this interest might have had a wider aspect of preserving and disseminating the Tibetan Buddhist heritage, and an even wider goal of promoting an ethics of common humanity. Although these ideas have been paramount to developing the research programs of our organisation, what is key to the long lifespan of the organization are the relationships, the friendships that spawned it and gradually spread to connect a large community of scientists and scholars.


Date and time

Wednesday, June 9, 2021 at 05:30am CEST (11:30pm EST).


Public access

The webinar with the Dalai Lama was live-streamed on the MLE YouTube channel. Click here to watch the recording.

Be part of the story and join the dialogue!

Live webinar with Evan Thompson (June 14, 2021)

Theme: 'What is Enaction? – A New Relationship Between Our Mind and the World'

We dedicated this webinar to a concept forged by Francisco to think about mind, called enaction. Francisco Varela was a rigorous experimental neuroscientist who did not think that mind could be reduced to brain function. In 'The Embodied Mind' he and Evan Thompson developed the concept of enaction as a way to think about mind and human experience as they are embedded in the body (not just the brain!) and engaged with the world.

Enaction, according to Francisco, is an epistemology of human experience and engagement. This is a way of thinking about human cognition that not only takes into account the notion of interdependence but makes human connection the very ground from which we think and act. Thinking about cognition from the enactive perspective has great ethical implications.


Date, time and public access

This webinar with Evan Thompson took place on June 14, 2021 at 6pm CEST and was live-streamed to the public on the MLE YouTube channel. Click here to watch the recording.

Be part of the story and join the dialogue!

About Evan Thompson

Evan Thompson is a writer and professor of philosophy at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. He works on the nature of the mind, the self, and human experience. His work combines cognitive science, philosophy of mind, phenomenology, and cross-cultural philosophy, especially Asian philosophical traditions. He is the author of Why I Am Not a Buddhist (Yale University Press, 2020); Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy (Columbia University Press, 2015); Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind (Harvard University Press, 2007); and Colour Vision: A Study in Cognitive Science and the Philosophy of Perception (Routledge Press, 1995). He is the co-author, with Francisco J. Varela and Eleanor Rosch, of The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience (MIT Press, 1991, revised edition 2016). Evan is an Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Evan received his A.B. from Amherst College in 1983 in Asian Studies and his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Toronto in 1990. He was Professor of Philosophy at the University of Toronto from 2005 to 2013, and held a Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Science and the Embodied Mind at York University from 2002 to 2005. In 2014, he was the Numata Invited Visiting Professor at the Center for Buddhist Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He has also held invited visiting appointments at the Faculty of Philosophy, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, the Ecole Polytechnique (Paris), the Center for Subjectivity Research at the University of Copenhagen, and the Department of Philosophy at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

In 2021, Evan served as the President of the Pacific Division of the American Philosophical Association. He has co-directed, with Christian Coseru and Jay Garfield, two National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institutes: Self-Knowledge in Eastern and Western Philosophies (2018) and Investigating Consciousness: Buddhist and Contemporary Philosophical Perspectives (2012). Evan also served for many years on planning committees of the Mind and Life Institute.

Live webinar with Jon Kabat-Zinn (September 9, 2021)

Theme: 'Where is the Ground? Reminiscences on Early Conversations with Francisco on the Gesture of Awareness, Embodiment, and MBSR'

Jon Kabat-Zinn shared his experiences of Francisco Varela, and his read on the enormity of Francisco's influence. He also talked about The Embodied Mind and how deeply struck (and supported) he felt by it, and how it came about that he wrote the Foreword to the 2nd edition. The conversation touched the key concepts or emotions he experienced collaborating with Francisco, as well as the long-lasting effects of their relationship, both personally and on his work.

The talk was a conversation with MLE's Board chair, Amy Cohen Varela (appr. 40 mins) plus a Q&A with the online participants (appr. 40 mins).


Date and time

Thursday, September 9, 2021 at 6pm CEST.


Public access

The webinar was live-streamed on our MLE YouTube channel, you can watch the recording here.

Be part of the story and join the dialogue!

About Jon Kabat-Zinn

Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. is Professor of Medicine emeritus at UMass Medical School, where he founded the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society (in 1995), and its world-renown Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Clinic (in 1979). He is the author of 14 books. His work has contributed to a growing world-wide movement of mindfulness within medicine, psychology, health care, neuroscience, schools, higher education, business, social justice, criminal justice, prisons, the law, technology, government, and professional sports. Pre and post Covid-19, he teaches and lectures around the world in person. During the pandemic, in addition to many Zoom presentations for various professional groups, he offered 13 straight weeks of guided meditations every weekday, followed by dialoguing with the participants, 66 episodes in toto, from March 25 through June 26, 2020. These are available on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2efOoRF_pw

Live webinar with Roshi Joan Halifax (September 23) - with French interpretation (avec traduction en français)

Theme: 'Continuous Groundlessness, Continuous Discovery: Meeting Francisco in Practice'

Roshi Joan Halifax, a leading Zen practitioner, had a really special friendship with Francisco Varela, they "met in practice". The common journey of understanding 'groundlessness' led to great discoveries for both.

A conversation between Roshi and another dear friend of MLE (appr. 40 mins) plus a Q&A with the online participants (appr. 40 mins).


Date and time

Thursday, September 23, 2021 at 6pm CEST.


Public access

The webinar was live streamed on our MLE YouTube channel, you can watch the recording here.

Be part of the story and join the dialogue!

About Roshi Joan Halifax

Roshi Joan Halifax, PhD, is a Buddhist teacher, anthropologist and author. She is co-founder of the Mind & Life Institute, founded the Ojai Foundation, the Prajna Mountain Buddhist Order, is Abbot and Head Teacher of Upaya Zen Center, and co-founder of the Zen Peacemaker Order. She is a pioneer in the end-of-life care field, and is well known internationally for her work in engaged Buddhism. She was an Honorary Research Fellow at Harvard University and a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the Library of Congress.