MLE Retreat 2019

Exploring Contemplative Life: Integrating personal, professional and spiritual aspects of our path

A Mind & Life Europe retreat for younger scholars and professionals (by application only, limited number of participants). The online application will open on this page on February 1, 2019.

In the original vision of Francisco J. Varela, the integration of wisdom traditions and science 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 as well as professional training and practice. By nature, as both life and contemplative development are unpredictable, the process towards integration of these dimensions necessarily involves continuous adjustments, choices, and reorientations. It brings rewards, but also exacts a cost. For all of us who feel drawn or compelled to this type of existential project, the path is strewn with challenges.

This 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. Which 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 price and are we willing to pay it?

Francisco J. Varela

Emphasizing individual and group work and employing an intensive contemplative and dialogic approach, the retreat is facilitated by experienced scholar-practitioners. As exploration of contemplative practice and its role in our present lives will be a key element for the retreat, younger/early career scholars who have had an established, regular meditation practice for about one year are encouraged to apply.

Following the ESRI tradition to support young scholars in the context of contemplative science, this retreat takes place directly after the Contemplative Science Symposium 2019. Attendance of the CSS is a prerequisite for the application to the MLE Retreat. The retreat will be led by Martijn van Beek and Hanneli Ågotsdatter as well as Andreas Roepstorff, John Dunne, and Nathalie Legros.



Start: Sunday, October 27, 2019 (4:30pm)

End: Tuesday, October 29, 2019 (4pm)


Application criteria:

  • Letter of motivation to participate in the MLE Retreat (the letter, which should not exceed two pages, should provide information about one’s practice background and motivation for participation in the MLE Retreat).
  • Professional CV
  • Proof of payment of the participation fee for the Contemplative Science Symposium 2019

    Register for CSS

The online application will open on this page on February 1, 2019 and will close on March 31, 2019.

The Team

  • Martijn van Beek
    Martijn van Beek Associate Professor - Aarhus University, Denmark
    Martijn van Beek

    Martijn van Beek is an Associate Professor of Anthropology in the Institute of Culture and Society, currently based at the Interacting Minds Centre and at the Department of Anthropology at the Aarhus University, Denmark.

    His current research explores the meeting ground between contemplative traditions, especially Buddhism, consciousness research and modernity. He studies how contemplative traditions negotiate the challenges and possibilities of modern society and how scientific research and normative secularism inform the emergence of new forms of contemplative life, community and practice.

    One of the goals of his current research is to contribute to refine our understanding of the significance of the spread of mindfulness and related forms of modern contemplative practice for people and for society today. Together with colleagues at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris and at Rice University in Houston he is engaged in research on the phenomenology of contemplative experience. This work is funded in part by the Mind & Life Institute, of which he is a Fellow.

    In addition, he is continuing his earlier research on the nexus between politics, development and religion, focusing on the Himalayan region and here especially Ladakh in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir.

  • Hanneli Ågotsdatter
    Hanneli Ågotsdatter Psychotherapist and yoga & meditation teacher -, Denkmark
    Hanneli Ågotsdatter

    Hanneli Ågotsdatter is a psychotherapist and a teacher of yoga and meditation. She is the founder of which offers mindfulness training for groups and individuals. Yoga, mindfulness meditation, empathy and creativity are interwoven into an integrated practice aimed at discovering and enlivening the body, heart and mind.

    In recent years, Hanneli has placed special emphasis on relational competence, teaching how to practice empathy and presence for professionals working with children and young people.

    Hanneli lives at Vaekstcenteret, a contemplative community in Denmark under the guidance of founder Jes Bertelsen. She divides her time between counseling, teaching, and long-term personal meditation retreats.

  • Andreas Roepstorff
    Andreas Roepstorff Professor - Aarhus University, Denmark
    Andreas Roepstorff

    Andreas Roepstorff is a professor of cognition, communication and culture in the departments of Culture and Society and Clinical Medicine, Aarhus University. He works at the interface between anthropology, cognitive science and neuroscience, and is equally interested in the workings of the mind and brain, and in how cognitive science and brain imaging, as fields of knowledge production, relate to other scientific and public fields.

    He has formal training in social anthropology and in neurobiology, and has published widely both within these disciplines as well as in various collaborations across other fields, such as psychology, linguistics, clinical medicine, semiotics, and philosophy. He is the director of the Interacting Minds Centre at Aarhus University and is involved in a number of transdisciplinary collaborations, focusing on aspects of human interaction. He has a long-standing research interest in cognitive aspects of contemplative practices.

    Andreas is also a Mind & Life Europe Board Member.

  • John Dunne
    John Dunne Professor - University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA
    John Dunne

    John D. Dunne (PhD 1999, Harvard University) serves on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he holds the Distinguished Chair in Contemplative Humanities, a newly endowed position created through the Center for Healthy Minds. He also holds a co-appointment in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literature and is participating in the creation of a new program in Asian Languages & Cultures. Previously he was an Associate Professor in the Department of Religion at Emory University, where he co-founded the Collaborative for Contemplative Studies.

    John Dunne's work focuses on Buddhist philosophy and contemplative practice, especially in dialog with Cognitive Science and Psychology. His publications appear in venues ranging across both the Humanities and the Sciences, and they include works on Buddhist philosophy, contemplative practice and their interpretation within scientific contexts. His current research focuses especially on the varieties of mindfulness and the contemplative theories that inquire into its nature. 

    John Dunne speaks in both academic and public contexts, and he occasionally teaches for Buddhist communities, most notably the Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe. In addition to serving as a faculty member for the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, he is a Fellow of the Mind and Life Institute, where he has previously served on the Board of Directors. Dr. Dunne also serves an academic advisor for the Ranjung Yeshe Institute in Kathmandu, Nepal.



Sunday, October 27, 2019

16:30-18:00:   Check-in

18:00-19:30:   Dinner

19:30-22:00:   Introduction and evening meditation session


Monday, October 28, 2019

7:00-8:00:       Yoga and meditation

8:00-8:45:       Breakfast

9:00-13:00:     Morning session

13:00-14:00:   Lunch

14:00-15:00:   Free-time

15:00-18:00:   Afternoon session

18:00-19:30:   Dinner

19:30-22:00:   Evening session


Tuesday, October 29, 2019

7:00-8:00:       Yoga and meditation

8:00-8:45:       Breakfast

9:00-13:00:     Morning session

13:00-14:00:   Lunch

14:00-16:00:   Afternoon session (presentations, panel)

16:00: Departure

 Program subject to change. The program language is English.



Student / Ph.D. Student 575 Euro
Senior Investigator 675 Euro
Professionals 850 Euro

Scholarships will be available. Further information will follow soon.

* The prices for participation include access to all sessions and workshops as well catering (breakfast, light snacks, lunch, dinner and non-alcoholic beverages) and accommodation.