When he was 12 years old, Stanford neurosurgeon Jim Doty, MD, met an unusual woman named Ruth in a magic shop in Lancaster, Calif., the town where he grew up. When she enters his life, she seems ethereal or perhaps even a dream. She arrives at the exact moment she’s needed, a young boy from a fractured home spinning without direction or parental love. Well before mindfulness became commonplace, Ruth taught him a series of mental exercises to ease his angst and focus on a world of possibilities not problems. Most significantly, Ruth offered hope to a somewhat hopeless life.
Doty has written an unusual memoir – Into the Magic Shop – detailing his life’s journey. In this 1:2:1 podcast I spoke with him about this most uncommon life – one of potholes and promise, detours and dreams, redemption and revisions, and, yes, contentment and even possibly peace.
Stanford physician and noted author Abraham Verghese, MD, gave advance praise to the book:
Into the Magic Shop is pure magic! That a child from humble beginnings could become a professor of neurosurgery and the founder of a center that studies compassion and altruism at a major university, as well as an entrepreneur and philanthropist is extraordinary enough. But it is Doty’s ability to describe his journey so lyrically, and then his willingness to share his methods that make this book a gem.
Outside of the OR, Doty spends much of his time studying the neuroscience of compassion and altruism. He serves as director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at the School of Medicine, of which the Dalai Lama is a founding benefactor.
Into the Magic Shop may not be like anything else you read. But it will take you places where you might never have been.
Previously: What the world needs now: altruism/A conversation with Buddhist monk-author Matthieu Ricard, From suffering to compassion: Meditation teacher-author Sharon Salzberg shares her story and How being compassionate can influence your health
Photo of Doty and the Dalai Lama, from a 2010 Stanford event, by Linda Cicero