ESRI 2017: ‘Exploring experience brings us to the heart of contemplation’

Andreas Roepstorff (chair of the planning committee) and Nathalie Legros (chair of the community building committee) are both at the heart of Mind and Life Europe’s European Summer Research Institute (ESRI). We got them together to talk about this year’s edition ‘Exploring Experience’.

When did you join the European Summer Research Institute?

Nathalie: I’m rather new to ESRI. In 2016, I was invited as a speaker to share my experiences of contemplative practices in a working environment. This year, I am involved in the planning committee and in the community building committee because I believe in the community dimension and think we need to find new ways of collaboration.

Andreas: I’ve been involved with ESRI since 2012. In the first, year, I joined as a speaker, in the second year as a commentator and last year I joined the planning committee. We are lucky to have such an inspiring group of people together that organise ESRI. It’s been a wonderful process, imaginative, collaborative and fun.

Why are you involved with ESRI?

Andreas: For me, ESRI is an opportunity to connect with people on really important topics. The format and the setting helps to open up a dialogue, with each other and oneself. Each year has been memorable.

Nathalie: What attracts me is the convergence of different diverse disciplines and the way science and spirituality are connected. Science is a highly competitive world. It gives ground-breaking results. I believe that it can be enriched today by the perspective of contemplative practice. It is usually focussed on the mental capacity of people. The moment you start observing, you become part of the experiment. Science conducted with more awareness would be more relevant for society and the world. There’s a need for different ways of talking and listening to each other. There needs to be more room for open dialogue and discussion, humility. I am interested in how we can build communities and expand space for collaboration.

What makes the ESRI different?

Nathalie: Being on an island together and its retreat like format instantly invites you to slow down.

Andreas: ESRI is a very special event. It brings together a unique group of people, researchers, practitioners, and contemplatives, in a focused investigation of human experience.

What does this year’s theme mean?

Andreas: Exploring Experience brings us to the heart of contemplation, while at the same time opening up to critical research questions. Linking the explorative and the experiential may be of relevance for researchers, practitioners and contemplatives alike.

Nathalie: Everything starts with your own experience. Bringing the experience back into your body, that is the starting point. You start experiencing collectiveness if you’re connected to yourself and your intuition.

What are you hoping to achieve with this year’s programme?

Andreas: I hope that ESRI 2017 will allow us an opportunity to explore, reflect and exchange. We have tried to structure the programme to allow for these distinct moments.

This is the fourth year ESRI has been held, what changes do you see from the first edition and this one?

Andreas: There is now a growing community around ESRI. This gives a wonderful feel to the event and may shape its future development.

How can ESRI support young scientists and established speakers, educators and scientists?

Andreas: It may set their research in a larger perspective and open new paths. That’s what it did for me.
ESRI may both create friction and coherence. This can infuse energy and potential, also into an already established career. I hope they get ideas for future projects and inspiration for how to go about a meaningful research life.

What is your wish for ESRI?

Andreas: I hope it becomes an established site for learning, a place for inspiration and innovation, and a hub for people to connect and reconnect.

Nathalie: I wish each participant is able to deepen their experience of life, wherever they are and allow themselves to step outside their comfort zone and patterns and discover something they didn’t realise they were capable of. A real experience that changes the way they do things and are as human beings. I wish knowledge will become embodied in participants and that they hear knowledge with their brain and experience it with their whole being.


The Mind and Life Europe Summer Research Institute “Exploring Experience” is held this from 28 July until 2 August in lake Chiemsee, Germany.

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