Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Review of "Into The Magic Shop" by James R. Doty, M.D.

I found James Doty's book, "Into The Magic Shop," to be both fascinating and inspiring. He begins his tale by recounting an encounter he had when he was a child. He grew up in poverty in the California High Desert, the son of an alcoholic father and a severely depressed mother. He was a fan of magic,, and one day we rode his bike  to the magic shop in town, where he encountered Ruth, the shopkeeper's mother who was visiting from out of state. That magical encounter changed his life. Ruth offered to teach him a different kind of magic that summer if he would promise to practice the exercises she gave him to do.That summer changed his life and set him on an unlikely path to college, medical school, a career as a surgeon, and as a researcher who studies the relationship between the brain and the heart..

Ruth's summer course for James included exercises that have led to lifelong disciples of meditation, relaxation, mindfulness, and empathy for others. It was a spiritual course without dogma. In his introduction to the book, Dr. Doty shares a harrowing story of a surgery that went wrong, and how he was able to keep himself and his body from panic when a young boy's life was on the line and apparently ebbing away. In those weeks with Ruth that summer long ago, young James had learned about what  he would eventually be able to call "neuroplasticity" - the ability to learn new things and rewire the way our brains work and think.

The subtitle of this book gives an accurate picture of the journey that the reader will go on as he follows the path that James Doty took from that dusty summer to becoming a Professor of Neurosurgery at Stanford University, and Director of The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. The Center works in close cooperation with the Dalai Lama. The subtitle: "A Neurosurgeon's Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart."

This book is one that should be enjoyed by anyone willing to learn more about the ineffable connection between the heart and the head. Using science and personal experience, Dr. Doty reveals some of the magic in those connections.



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