Frequently Asked Questions

Updated December 1, 2023

What is included under “contemplative practices”?

The term “contemplative practice” is meant in a broad sense—including various forms of meditation, mindfulness, compassion, loving-kindness, gratitude, introspection and awareness of mind-body states, contemplative prayer, and embodied or movement-based practices such as yoga, qi-gong, and other indigenous and traditional practices from various contexts and cultures that may include dancing, drumming, and more.

Given Mind & Life’s mission, “Bridging science and contemplative wisdom to foster insight and inspire action toward flourishing,” we define contemplative practices as those rooted in contemplative and spiritual wisdom traditions. For lesser-known practices not listed above, the connection to a contemplative or spiritual tradition would need to be described in the application; purely psychological interventions would not count as a contemplative practice. We also recommend contacting us at before preparing your grant application if your project involves practices not listed here.

Are these grants open to international applicants?

Yes. Mind & Life Grants are open to applicants of any country or citizenship. However, the Mind & Life Institute is a U.S.-based organization; please be aware of your country’s policies regarding acceptance of foreign funds.

Would I be eligible if I am not affiliated with a university?

Applicants to our research grants (Varela, PEACE) need to be affiliated with a research institution (such as a university or other research center) that can provide the necessary infrastructure for the project, including—most importantly—ethical oversight of the way research is conducted on human subjects (via an Institutional Review Board (IRB), or Human Research Ethics Committee, or similar entity). Individuals not affiliated with such an institution should partner with an eligible applicant who can provide access to research resources.

Can I submit two applications for different projects, or different aspects of the same project?

We do not accept two separate grant proposals (or letters of intent) from the same applicant, or from different applicants for two aspects of the same project. Applicants submitting more than one application for the same program in the same year will be disqualified.

Can two applications from the same lab be submitted in the same grant cycle?

While it is not prohibited to have multiple applications from the same lab, applicants should be aware that it is highly unlikely that more than one proposal from the same lab would be funded in a single grant cycle.

Can I submit a proposal if I’m a current or past Mind & Life grantee?

Applicants to a new grant may not be currently actively funded through any Mind & Life research grant (i.e., Varela or PEACE). Current Mind & Life grantees must submit a final report and budget reconciliation for their ongoing research grants before applying for a new grant. (Please note that Think Tank grants and Contemplative Changemaking Grants are not considered research grants and therefore do not fall under this policy). In addition, no individual may be funded more than three times from the same Mind & Life grant program.

What can be included in the budget?

“Research costs” can include payments to study participants, experimental costs (e.g., MRI scans, lab equipment and supplies), project-related services, required training for the PI, travel necessary for research/field work, publishing costs, etc. NOTE: For Varela Grants, funds may not be used for salaries or remuneration for the PI(s) or project collaborators (i.e., individuals who are the grantee’s mentors or peers). Exceptions may be made for projects within the humanities (please contact us well ahead of the Varela Grant application deadline for consideration). Funds may be used to pay outside individuals such as: consultants for statistical analysis; meditation teachers; dedicated lab or technical support such as research assistants; services such as participant scheduling, data entry, transcription, etc. Please clearly explain all such costs in the budget section of the application form. Grant funds may not be used for conference attendance (e.g., registration, travel, etc.).

Do Mind & Life grants cover indirect costs?

No, grant funds may not be used to cover indirect costs. If a grant is awarded, the grantee’s institution must agree to waive all overhead and administrative fees, and further agree that the funds will be used solely for research purposes conducted by the grantee. Please ensure you have approval from your institution prior to applying for a Mind & Life grant.

Can I apply with a Co-PI?

Yes, we allow one Principal Investigator (PI) and at most one co-PI on a single grant. Both PI and co-PI must meet ALL eligibility criteria for the given grant. If one individual does not meet criteria, they should be listed as a collaborator. The PI must fill out a single application in which they list their co-PI (if any) and collaborators (if any) and upload relevant biosketches.

Note that funds will be disbursed to the PI’s institution. If funds need to be distributed to a co-PI, the transfer must be handled by the PI and their institution.

My proposal is part of a larger project that already has funding. How should I reflect this in the budget?

The budget you submit should cover the use of funds from this grant only. If you have additional funding sources for your project, please include this information in the relevant application section following the budget. Be specific about how the grant you’re applying for will be used within the larger budget.

Some of my project is already completed. Can I include the corresponding (past) expenses in the budget that I submit as part of the Mind & Life grant application?

No. Mind & Life grants can only cover expenses that occur after the grant starting date. In other words, Mind & Life cannot reimburse for past expenses that occurred prior to the date the grant is awarded.

Who receives the grant money?

Grant funds will be disbursed to the institution or organization where the grantee (i.e., Principal Investigator, or PI) is affiliated. The funds cannot be given directly to an individual. If funds need to be distributed to a co-PI, the transfer must be handled by the PI and their institution.

Do I need approval from an Institutional Review Board (IRB), or Human Research Ethics Committee, or other equivalent entity that oversees research on human subjects?

Yes—as long as your project involves human subjects research, which is usually the case for the research we fund (except for some projects in the humanities). Payment of the grant will not be made until Mind & Life receives documentation of IRB approval (or equivalent ethical approval in your location). Ethical approval should be in place within six months after notification of the receipt of the grant.

What if I need more than two years to complete the project?

The length of the grant is two years from the date of the notification of grant acceptance. If more time is required, a request for extension must be submitted to Mind & Life (this can be done through the SurveyMonkey Apply platform). It will then be reviewed by the Grants team for approval.

Varela Grants only:

I’m currently a research assistant. Do I need to be enrolled in graduate school to be eligible?

In general, yes. You may, however, consider applying to the Varela Grant once you have notice of admission to a graduate program, even though you have not yet matriculated at the time of application.

I’ve had a Varela Grant in the past. Am I still eligible?

If you still meet basic eligibility criteria, you may apply if you’ve had fewer than three Varela Grants in your lifetime. The maximum number of Varela Grants that one person can receive (as PI or co-PI) is three.

I have attended both the US and European Summer Research Institutes. Can I apply for both Varela Grants?

No. Applicants may only apply for one of the Varela Grants each year. If you have attended both the US and European Summer Research Institutes in the last 5 years, you must choose which Varela Grant program you would like to apply for.