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Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu: Psychologist, scholar, educator
Mar 10, 2018: From Mindfulness to Heartfulness


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Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu is a Stanford University-based psychologist and scholar who combines disciplines of Western science with Eastern healing modalities.  With a doctorate from Harvard University, Stephen has trained in clinical and community psychology, yoga, meditation, and Chinese medicine.   Dr. Murphy-Shigematsu is an author in both English and Japanese who writes about multicultural perspectives on mindfulness, identity, and citizenship. His stories of healing and human development have been hailed as “beautifully written," "deeply moving," "groundbreaking,” and "revolutionary." Bridging literary and social science genres, his writing is both scholarly and accessible to a wide audience. See full.
Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu is a Stanford University-based psychologist and scholar who combines disciplines of Western science with Eastern healing modalities.  With a doctorate from Harvard University, Stephen has trained in clinical and community psychology, yoga, meditation, and Chinese medicine.  

Dr. Murphy-Shigematsu is an author in both English and Japanese who writes about multicultural perspectives on mindfulness, identity, and citizenship. His stories of healing and human development have been hailed as “beautifully written," "deeply moving," "groundbreaking,” and "revolutionary." Bridging literary and social science genres, his writing is both scholarly and accessible to a wide audience.

Stephen’s latest book is From Mindfulness to Heartfulness: Transforming Self and Society with Compassion (February 2018).  Drawing on the Japanese character for the term, he says:  “Heartfulness begins with mindfulness and extends into other ways of being, embracing vulnerability, humility, acceptance, and authenticity. Realizing our connectedness with others leads to empathy, deep listening, and respect. We become compassionate persons and responsible citizens acting to eliminate suffering in self and others and in the world. Heartfulness is compassionate mindfulness in which the awareness of being connected to the self, perhaps a Higher Self and with everything and everyone makes us hate injustice and moves us to do things for others because their welfare is our concern.”

One mindfulness leader describes the book as taking us “beyond mindfulness as it is often currently taught—as an instrument for cognitive changes like focus, attention, or stress relief—to the truths of the gentle, appreciative, nurturing heart. He shows us through stories and practices how to expand our contemplative lives from being self-focused to being inclusive, connected, compassionate, and responsible. Immense heartfulness shines through every story he tells, drawing on experiences from teaching children and college students to being with his dying grandmother to his own biracial childhood. Each story is a jewel, opening the heart. He connects heartfulness to social justice, leadership, and education and offers simple, direct instructions for seven heartful practices.”

Dr. Murphy-Shigematsu is also the author of When Half Is Whole: Multiethnic Asian American Identities and Multicultural Encounters: Case Narratives from a Counseling Practice; and coauthor of Synergy, Healing, and Empowerment: Insights from Cultural Diversity. His books in Japanese include Amerasian Children; and the Stanford University Mindfulness Classroom.

Currently at Stanford University where he is Faculty in Leadership and Wellness in the Program of Health and Human Performance, School of Medicine, Stephen cofounded the LifeWorks program in contemplative and integrative education. The LifeWorks program fosters the growth of “whole students” among undergraduates, cultivating their ability to live boldly, reflectively, and responsibly; its courses and workshops integrate scholarship, creative expression and embodied practices such as mindfulness and self-reflection to help students connect their academic work with their core values and goals. 

Dr. Murphy-Shigematsu also lectures in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity at Stanford.  He previously was a tenured professor of education and at the University of Tokyo and director of the international counseling center.  He has been a teacher and counselor for children and adults in schools and universities in Japan and the United States, from day care to medical school. His work balances traditional wisdom and modern science in designing mindful, gentle, and compassionate educational practices and spaces. He uses storytelling, both written and oral, to enhance whole-person learning and mindful citizenship.

Dr. Murphy-Shigematsu’s research career includes fieldwork in Okinawa and other parts of Japan in healing and human development as a Fulbright scholar. His work has contributed to understanding in areas of narrative psychology, mixed-race identity, multicultural counseling, and diversity in Japan as well as the United States.

He has created trainings for the U.S. Marines and Navy on cultural diversity and leadership.  His current research is in the assessment of mindfulness in promoting personal well-being, leadership, and social transformation. 

Join us in conversation with this wise and compassionate scholar and educator!


Five Questions for Stephen

What Makes You Come Alive?
A student once asked me, "Sensei, what is the best moment in your life?" I surprised him, and myself, by answering without hesitation, "Right now." I was even more surprised that I meant it. I think it's when I feel, "It's good to be alive." That happens when I can bring myself to the wonder of the moment, with the awareness that it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to exist in connection with others and the universe.

Your Greatest Inspiration?
When I was a lost young man in my 20's I felt the clear message to "Return home." For me this meant to return to my motherland, my birthplace, Japan. I followed the calling and in living with my grandmother I truly came alive, dedicating my life to realizing my purpose and began living with a greater sense of acceptance and appreciation that found meaning in assertive action on behalf of self and others.

An Act of Kindness You'll Never Forget?
In my first hospice case I was sitting at the bedside of a person in final stages of life and fell asleep. When I awoke I found her looking at me with eyes full of compassion. I was afraid of death and her dying was frightening me but her eyes touched my heart so deeply, as if she was calming my fears and letting me know that she was all right and that I too would be all right.

One Thing On Your Bucket List?
I have no bucket list. I try to be aware of what I am being called to do and to have the courage to listen and follow the invitation and to lead myself and others in that direction.

One-line Message for the World?
I love you just the way you are!


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