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About Dr. Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu

Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu is an American Japanese psychologist at Stanford University. He teaches and researches human development through mindfulness, Asian wisdom, science, compassion, and responsibility. He is a speaker, workshop leader, and author. He received a doctorate in clinical and community psychology from Harvard University and was professor at The University of Tokyo.


Born in post World War II Tokyo to a Japanese mother and Irish-American father, Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu draws inspiration and courage from his diverse Buddhist, Shinto, Bushido, Celtic, and Catholic heritages. His life’s journey is guided by a sense of destiny in crossing borders and forming bridges between Japanese and Americans, east and west, mastery and mystery. His mission is integrating indigenous Asian spiritual wisdom with the art and scientific practice of psychology for healing and social transformation.


His career spans half a century and ranges widely and delves deeply into the topics of psychology and education highlighted here. He studied and practiced early childhood education, East Asian medicine, yoga, and meditation before receiving a doctorate in clinical and community psychology from Harvard University.  At Harvard he studied mindfulness through a multicultural lens with Richard Katz, Kiyo Morimoto, and Chester Pierce.  He has pursued lifelong learning through lived experience with teaching and learning going hand-in-hand from day care to end-of-life care with diverse students—teenagers, Zen monks, medical doctors, business executives, and Marines. 


His life work illuminates a broad range of topics including human development and consciousness, transformative learning, cultural diversity, racial identity, cultural medicine, and healing. Weaving together scientific research, case histories, traditional wisdom, and his own insights and experience, he presents a rich perspective that enlightens and empowers people to promote their own healing and the healing of others whose lives they touch. His teaching, research, and clinical practice balance traditional spiritual wisdom and modern science in designing healing psychoeducational spaces where we become more fully human. He uses storytelling, both written and oral, enhances whole person learning, heart centered psychological education that fosters transformation and wellness.


For nearly a decade he engaged in study, research, training, counseling, and teaching at Harvard, followed by more than a decade as professor at Tokyo University, with a third decade spent at numerous other schools, community clinics, and hospitals in Japan and the US. For the past 20 years Stanford University has been the base of his teaching and research practices as faculty in Arts, Humanities, and Medicine; Comparative Studies of Race and Ethnicity; Health and Human Performance; Education; Human Biology; Psychology, and Anthropology. Currently he joined the faculty of CARE: Center for Asian Health Research and Education. 


He has been honored as a Fulbright scholar, fellow of the American psychological Association, distinguished Stanford Faculty, and keynote speaker at international conferences. While he appreciates awards and enjoys the thrill of performing on big stages, he comes alive in intimate encounters of shared vulnerability and humility. He still feels joy in living and loving the questions and finds meaning and purpose in promoting education and research on “heartfulness”—human development through mindfulness, Asian wisdom, science,  compassion, and service. He seeks to serve as an elder, a “sensei” who offers their own learnings to illuminate the way for others.

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