Exploring Contemplative Life


Exploring Contemplative Life

Integrating personal, professional and spiritual aspects of our path

October 27. – 29. 2019

Fürstenfeld Abbey, Germany


with Martijn van Beek, Hanneli Ågotsdatter, John Dunne, Nathalie Legros and Andreas Roepstorff

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

– Albert Einstein

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?


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 with contributions from John D. Dunne, Nathalie Legros and Andreas Roepstorff.


This is a Mind & Life Europe retreat for younger scholars and professionals (by application only, limited number of participants). For more information about this retreat see Mind & Life Europe.


Letter of motivation to participate in the MLE Retreat (the letter, which should not exceed 500 words, 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 Contemplative Science Symposium, October 25th – 27th, 2019 in Fürstenfeldbruck, Germany

To apply for this retreat, continue to Mind & Life Europe.


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

Student / Ph.D. Student: 575 Euro
Senior Investigator: 675 Euro
Professionals: 850 Euro
Scholarships will be available.

For more information about this retreat, visit Mind & Life Europe and The Mind & Life Europe Contemplative Science Symposium.


The retreat starts on Sunday October the 27th at 4:30pm – and ends on
Tuesday October the 29th at 4pm.



Martijn van Beek, Hanneli Ågotsdatter, John Dunne, Nathalie Legros and Andreas Roepstorff


Martijn van Beek  is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and affiliated with the Interacting Minds Centre, both at Aarhus University, Denmark. Having previously spent many years working and conducting research in Ladakh and elsewhere in the Himalayan region, his current research explores the meeting ground between contemplative traditions, especially Buddhism, consciousness research and modernity.
One of the goals of his current research is to contribute to refining 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 he is also engaged in research on the phenomenology of contemplative experience.
Martijn teaches on contemplative life in context, in theory and in practice at Aarhus University; in the programme “Training Empathy” for professionals working with children and young adults offered by Børns Livskundskab, The Danish Society for the Promotion of Life Wisdom in Children; and occasionally at Vaekstcenter, the intentional community where he lives and in other contexts.


Hanneli Ågotsdatter M.A, psychotherapist, architect and meditation teacher. She is the founder of kontemplation.dk which offers MBSR-programs and group retreats where mindfulness, presence yoga, empathy and creativity are interwoven into an integrated practice.

In her work, Hanneli has placed special emphasis on relational competence, teaching the practice of empathy and presence to professionals working with children and young people. She co-leads a one-year program for Danish school teachers, a project that sorts under The Danish Society for the Promotion of Life Wisdom in Children.

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.

CSS_Dunne John BW

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.


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.


Fürstenfeld Abbey, Germany