Francisco J. Varela Research Awards for Contemplative Science

Francisco Varela

The Mind and Life Francisco J. Varela Research Awards are an important and integral component of the Mind and Life Summer Research Institute, and are based on neuroscientist and philosopher Francisco J. Varela’s belief 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 more importantly offers resources for advancing scientific theories and models of consciousness, emotion and cognitive processing. The Varela Awards emphasize empirical examinations of contemplative techniques with the ultimate goal that findings will provide greater insight into the mechanisms of contemplative practice and its application for reducing human suffering. Preference is given to proposals using rigorous experimental designs that evaluate both state and trait effects of contemplative practice, as well as those that incorporate “first-person” contemplative methods, employing introspective investigation and reports on subjective experience. This grant program also encourages the active collaboration of scientists with contemplative scholars/practitioners in all phases of research. Grants of up to $15,000 are awarded annually through a competitive application, review and selection process.

Mind and Life wishes to express our deep thanks to the John Templeton Foundation and the Hershey Family Foundation for supporting this important grant program.


To be eligible for a Varela Award, the applicant must have attended the Mind and Life Summer Research Institute as a Research Fellow within the last five years (i.e., for 2014 applications, one must have attended a Summer Research Institute in 2010 or later). Applicants must currently be graduate students, post-docs, or junior faculty up to their third year of appointment.

*NEW* Varela Mentorship Program

We are pleased to announce our new Mentorship Program for Varela applicants. Connecting Varela applicants to mentors will assist in improving the methodology, rigor, and contemplative studies focus of grant applications. Working with a mentor is optional, but if you would like assistance in developing your Varela application, don’t hesitate to contact a mentor in your field!

Request for Proposals

Click here for the full RFP (or download a PDF).

Frequently Asked Questions

View our Awards FAQ here


The application period for the 2014 Varela Awards was open from September 5 – October 8, 2014.

Past Awardees

Click here for a list of over 100 of our past Varela Awardees.