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Book Review: Into The Magic Shop by James Doty

Book Cover for Into the Magic Shop by James Doty, MD

“Into The Magic Shop: A Neurosurgeon’s Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart” by James R. Doty (MD) has a bit of magic that everyone should know. 

Magic – What more could a young boy, on the cusp of adolescence, want?

Magic is something that Doty has chosen to share with the world and I am ever so thankful that he did. Doty has a sincere, and yet objective, tone throughout “Into The Magic Shop”, even as he recounts his past. A past that is no doubt painful and difficult. Yet, his retelling of his childhood family experiences are portrayed with the child-like lens that he experiences them through.

“My family had little money, and I was often hungry. I didn’t like being hungry. I didn’t like being poor.” (pg 13)

As he paints a picture of his nowhere town, it is clear that Doty was quite aware as a young child – although this could be contributed to his abusive and neglected upbringing, as a hyper-awareness can develop in the name of safety. Doty recounts the negative and positive about his childhood and the full perspective truly helps to bring the story to life.

I found early on that we had something in common: we each had a wooden box where we would keep prized possessions. For Doty, his items were: a notebook of doodles, poetry and random facts, along with a copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People. I found it fascinating that someone so young had a copy of a book that most adults won’t even bother to read today. Knowing he cares enough to study himself at a young age, I am more than happy to join him on his adventure to the magic shop.

Enter Ruth (or rather, enter Jim).

Before he enters the magic shop in town to find another thumb (if you do magic tricks, you’ll understand why losing your thumb can be a bummer), Doty has only been known by Bobby. When he enters the shop though, he tells the older lady behind the counter that his name is Jim. Instead of a thumb, he finds Ruth casually sitting behind the counter of the store, admitting to hold a seat until her son returns. Ruth is quite the intuitive and Jim is inherently drawn to her. They converse about how often Jim practices magic and as they continue to discuss magic’s inner workings, with Jim’s aware nature at the fore, Ruth’s first bits of mind blowing wisdom bubble up:

” “I think the magic trick works because people see only what they think is there rather than what’s actually there. This thumb tip trick works because the mind is a funny thing. It sees what it expects to see. It expects to see a real thumb, so that’s what it sees. The brain, as busy as it can be, is actually very lazy. And yes, it also works because people are, as you said, so easily distracted.” ” (pg 21)

Quote - Everyone should have their minds blown once a day Neil deGrasse

Ruth’s insight into the mind is a tell for the wisdom she passes on to Doty. Once he agrees to her teaching him the ultimate trick, he anticipates learning but… not exactly the lessons that Ruth has in mind.

Ruth’s Tricks

Ruth teaches Doty daily for the duration of his summer and passes on to him the following four tricks:

Trick #1 – Relax the body

For anyone who practices meditation, this is the first step. Using breathing techniques paired with muscle relaxation, Doty learns to relax from toes to head (yes, in that order).

Trick #2 – Tame the mind

Thoughts are traffic in the mind. There are ones that we are very aware of (“I need to get out of bed”) and some that are automatic or learned (“Breathe in, breathe out” or “I’m just like my mother”). This step is difficult to get your head around, especially if you are someone who wants to action/fix/tend to each thought. Taming the mind is not about clearing it but watching it. Your mind will think regardless of whether you attend to it or not. Let it go. This is where Doty learns about mantras.

Trick #3 – Opening the heart

Ruth’s lesson here is succinct but this lesson is the hardest for Doty (and arguably anyone) to grasp: “But here’s the trick about the things that hurt us and cause us pain – they also serve an amazing purpose. When our hearts are wounded, that’s when they open. We grow through pain. We grow through difficult situations. That’s why you have to embrace each and every difficult thing in your life.” (pg 90). Something that we need to do may be simple but it may not be easy. It could be leaving a non-fulfilling but comfortable friendship. It could be forgiving someone. This trick is all about unconditional love, giving and receiving it. “What matters is that you have an open heart. An open heart connects with others, and that changes everything.” (pg 105).

Trick #4 – Clarifying your intent

Today this would be called manifestation or visualization. I love this title for the exercise, as it gets to the human side. It’s about the feeling that is achieved when the goal or mission is carried out. Digging deep into belief, this exercise shows the practitioner that they are capable of achievement and, most importantly, they are capable. Taking the time to add details to the vision every time creates a compounding effect that helps the vision to become a reality.

Mariner's Compass - Pointing South EastNow that he knows what to do, what does Doty do with his lessons from Ruth?

Doty’s Journey

Ruth’s lessons and her time with Doty is only the first half of the book.  Doty’s continues on his journey into the medical profession. He creates a Goliath set of mistakes for himself. Then he returns to the employ of each of Ruth’s tricks. This makes up the second half. The latter part of the book is as important and impactful as the first. I am thankful for his work with the practitioners that he is fortunate enough to partner with. The second part is where Doty truly finds meaning in opening his heart and clarifying intent.  Don’t miss out on that – it’s a beautiful journey. If you want to go on your own journey, there is a plethora of extra information: exercises, podcasts, and a reader’s guide.

What I love most about this book is how it integrates so closely with what I’ve learned in The Happiness Advantage, Emotional Overeating, and The Thank You Economy. Learning about different ways to work with my mind and enhance my experience of life exhilarates me and encourages me to keep going.

Certainly a must read for anyone who is interested in: meditation, creating life goals or purpose, exploring how their mind works, and/or is curious about whether or not the tricks work.

 

Book Review: The Silent Cry by Cathy Glass

Book Cover for The Silent Cry by Cathy Glass - a girl is sitting on a swing looking up over her left shoulder at the camera

Mental Health is pervasive and Kim’s story adds to the discourse.

Regular readers of my blog know that I am in absolute love with the Cathy Glass collection. In “The Silent Cry” by Cathy Glass, mental health has a large focus and Cathy’s approach to it is amazing. As this is a book set in earlier years, I am pleased to be part of Cathy’s younger world as I am guilty of having read her books horribly out of order. I enjoy the different dynamic between Cathy and her young children, Adrian and Paula.

However, this capturing of Kim’s story is truly a story about the interconnect of relationships that each of us go through, along with the thought process that a friend has when there are clear signs that her friend is struggling. This is the first in the series that I’ve seen a disrupted and changing storyline in terms of the children that are coming into Cathy’s care. In this book, you get to experience her mainly providing respite (short term care). As she is doing this, she is also worries about Kim’s mom. Cathy’s experiences with Kim’s grandmother, which are quite cold, do little to quell her concerns.

After quite a length of time, Cathy is able to get through to the family that is covering up a mental illness. Finally, Kim’s mom receives a diagnosis of post-partum psychosis. This is a rare development that can occur after pregnancy and is treatable. After all the adults involved come together to help, Kim’s mom is on the road to recovery and health.

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Mental health is an important matter! Please ensure that you and your loved ones encourage each other to receive help when it’s needed. There are qualified, professional people in your area who are able to help by phone, email or in person.

Need help? Google “*City Name* Mental Health”. 

Don’t Read More in 2017!

It’s New Year’s Eve and I’m here to tell you why you shouldn’t be resolute in adding “read more” to your resolutions list.

This is pretty much how it goes: during the festivities of saying goodbye (and bye Felicia) to 2016, it’s inevitable that someone is going to ask what your resolution is. Internally, you’ll roll your eyes and either give a half-baked answer or you’ll be super prepared with a litany of responses (they said they had time right?). By March, these wonderful intentions will have taken a backseat to your other stuff, mainly Netflix and pizza.

All good, I’m not here to judge. I’m here to remind you why reading just isn’t your jam:

1) Recreation reading means you’ll spend your free time… reading.
(Wasn’t school enough?!)

 

2) Learning new words, and their definitions, gives you nausea.

(Knowing the meaning of those words is superfluous)

 

3) Books are so damn heavy. 

(If you wanted to lift, you’d go to the gym)

 

4) Books give you too much time away from the screen.

(Going to check the FBSnapInstaTwitverse now)

5) Legit, there’s no time to read books.

(Who has time for all those words without pictures anyway?!)

 

6) You might use intelligent sounding words in conversation.

(Dropping a linguistic mic only works with your nerdy/brilliant friends)

7) You read enough.(Social media counts right?)

And, if you really want to read more next year, check out How to Love Reading (Again).

Happy New Year and may 2017 be fabulous to you!

(If you loved this and would like to get ReadViews in 2017, sign up down below)

How to Love Reading (Again)

While your coffee order is being filled, you look around and you see people hanging out with friends and then, you spot them. And their love.

 

The reader. The solitary person hanging out with characters of a distant land, breaking through the depths of the human imagination while waiting for their work day to start.

 

You’ve wondered how people can spend hours in a bookstore. *Let’s not kid ourselves, book lovers would live among the stacks if we were allowed*.

You’re curious about what drags people into paper, ink and imagination. What could possibly take one from the land of the living into…a book.

Here’s a few things you can do to become a book lover:
  1. Start slow, it’s not a race.
    There’s literally no reason for you to start consuming books as if your blood is made of letters and your cells punctuation. Start with one book.
  2. Pick a good book. For you.
    There are millions of books out there. There are recommendations to go with each of them. Start with a book that appeals to you. Some questions to ask: Who do I admire and want to learn more about? What are my hobbies? Do I want to read a story or hard facts?
  3. Make the time to read.
    If you’re not a big reader, 15 minutes a day will ensure that you’re getting through that book. If you want to go hardcore and finish a book in a few days, then go for it. Take your time and relish the time you have to spend with the book.
  4. Start a reading log.
    This can be a simple sheet that says the day you’re reading, the book you’re reading and the amount of pages you read that day.
  5. Rinse and repeat.
    This is the most important step. Even if you didn’t like and/or didn’t finish the last book, try again. There are many more opportunities for you to fall in love with the depths of the printed human imagination.

If you’d like to get some ideas, take a look at my Readviews.