Funding decisions announced in December

(Updated June 3, 2020)

The Mind & Life Francisco J. Varela Research Grants — an important and integral component of Mind & Life’s support of contemplative scientists and scholars — 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, cognition, and self.

The Varela Grants fund rigorous examinations of contemplative techniques with the ultimate goal that findings derived from such investigations will provide greater insight into contemplative practices and their application for reducing human suffering and promoting flourishing. Proposals are encouraged across broad domains, including: cognitive science, clinical psychology, education, anthropology, neuroscience, health/medical, social science, and humanities. Preference is given to interdisciplinary proposals that incorporate first-person contemplative methods (e.g., introspective investigation and reports on subjective experience) into traditional cognitive, behavioral, physiological, clinical, or socio-cultural research.

This grant program encourages the active collaboration of scientists with contemplative scholars/practitioners in all phases of research. Grants of up to $20,000 are awarded annually through a competitive application, review, and selection process.

This year, we especially encourage applications that demonstrate relevance to the current Covid-19 pandemic. Please read the full Request for Proposals (RFP) for more information.

Mind & Life wishes to express our deep thanks to the Hershey Family Foundation for their generous support of this program since its inception.

Read the Request for Proposals »

Grant Policies and FAQ

*NEW* Tips for a Great Proposal

Varela Grant Recipients

**NOTE: There is a different application cycle and process for attendees of the European Summer Research Institutes. For those applying based on attendance of a European Summer Research Institute in Chiemsee, Germany, please visit the Mind & Life Europe website. Applicants may only apply for one Varela Grant in a given year.

For any questions about this grant, please see the FAQ, or email

To be eligible for a Varela Grant, the applicant must have attended the Mind & Life Summer Research Institute in the United States or Japan within the last five years (i.e., for 2020 applications, one must have attended a Summer Research Institute in 2016 or later). This program is intended as a career development grant, and is open to graduate students and post-doctoral fellows currently affiliated with a research institution, and junior faculty through their fifth year of university appointment. (For example, an applicant must not have entered her sixth year of a faculty appointment by the application deadline.) This also includes scholars with up to five cumulative years of experience as an independent investigator, research scientist, or similar. Please contact us with any questions about your eligibility.

The next application cycle will take place in August-September 2020. Grants are selected and announced each December. Please check back for updates.