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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”. 

Book Review: Love Letters: Extraordinary Loving for Everyday Living by Paulette Dahl

Cover of Love Letters: Extraordinary Loving for Everyday Living by Paulette Dahl - Reviewed January 2017
Love Letters: Extraordinary Loving for Everyday Living by Paulette Dahl is truly a gift from her heart to yours.

When I first read Love Letters, I ditched the suggested guide and read it cover to cover. Mainly so that I would be able to give an appropriate review on content. However, this review will cover content and experience, as I took some additional time to experience the book as recommended, by reading Letters randomly.

Reading the book in rogue style (cover to cover) tugged at my insides in a blessed way. Something within me knew that certain letters were just. Right. Dahl doesn’t back down from the darker, deeper emotions that visit each of us during the course of living. The importance of the emotional pairings demonstrates the duality of perception. Not simply that life is duality but rather, that acceptance of the emotional experience is okay. It is okay to accept grief when it comes to you. Same with depression. The Letters acknowledge these seasons in our lives, along with an appreciation for them and a line of caution about how they may impact us. There is a balance and sense of honour for each Letter, regardless of the topic. Readers will experience emotional ties to this book that they didn’t know they had and should prepare to be surprised by what arises.

Take some time with the book.

Readers should take the time to enjoy the preface of Love Letters, as it explains Dahl’s intentional use of Love as a verb (yes, with a capital L!), rearrangements and dis-section of some terms. As I was reading the preface, I was thankful for the explanation of the deliberate choices she had made in getting her point across. I am also deeply grateful for her sharing the process it took to arrive at the concept for the Love Letters.

When reading the book as intended, I arrived at the same set of letters a few times and have come to appreciate the need for constant reminders during this season of my life. I discovered that reading the Letters out loud had more impact for me. Made me read at a slower speed and really consider the communication from the Letters to me.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The length of the Letters is perfect (maximum of four pages) and the smaller details are well-thought out (like the hearts around the page numbers). I would recommend it for anyone who would like to look at their emotions in a different way, is looking to explore their internal world, or is curious about what Letters may let them do.

Four stars.


Completed this for BookTasters. Want to get free books in exchange for an honest review? They’re fabulous to work with and I highly recommend them!

Book Review: The Farm on Nieuw Land Road:Jenna Kroon Series by Hannah Warren

Cover of The Farm on Nieuw Land Road: The Jenna Kroon Series by Hannah Warren - Review January 2017
The dynamic dancer, Jenna Kroon, is back in “The Farm on Nieuw Land Road” by Hannah Warren.

This is the second book in the Jenna Kroon series and another home run for Warren. After witnessing multiple tragedies in the first book, The Cottage on The Border, Jenna is back with her eyes open to her past and a focus on her future.

She is across the pond now, in New York, dancing with a large dance company. Jenna is surpassing her previous dance experience in Europe. She has begun to make a dramatic entrance in the American dance realm. With her hours of dedication and practice, success is inevitable. As she is preparing to complete an entrance examination to a highly coveted choreography course, she stumbles across a glimmer of friendship and struggles to open herself up to the notion that she can be likeable and, in turn, friendly to others. Jenna, as all beings are, is complex and her complexity is what makes her interesting. Grappling with the level of friendship plus her intense dedication to dance lands Jenna where she seems to consistently land, in the hospital.

Upon her discharge, Jenna decides that she is going to heal her head wound at home, at the cottage she was in during book one. This doesn’t last long and she ends up staying with the at Nieuw farm, which proves to be as adventurous.

At Nieuw Farm, Jenna discovers more about herself than her past and unearths her potential while healing, again, from an apparent eating disorder.

THWAP!

Like a shot of whiskey, Warren’s writing and storyline looks great in the light, goes down smoothly and sends heat through the body.  The second book of the trilogy hits hard. We go deeper into Jenna’s vulnerability, exposing her humanity to the cold air of reality and connection. Personally, I am perched with anticipation for the third novel in this series. Jenna is an enjoyable character and I will relish the third installation in this series.

Finally, I would like to comment on the cover art for the novel. The artwork captures the intensity of Jenna’s personality, the focal point for the book. The setting is the secondary influence to the reader’s eye. Readers will also notice that Jenna’s character is, rightfully, placed above all else.

Another solid five stars!

Format: ebook
Pages:  312
Days to Read: 8


Completed this for BookTasters. If you’d like to get free books in exchange for an honest review, they’re fabulous to work with and I highly recommend them!