Written by Suzanne Koven.
One hot day in the summer of 1968, a 12-year-old boy named Jim Doty, the son of an alcoholic father and a suicidal mother, wandered into a magic shop in a strip mall in Lancaster, Calif. The owner of the shop wasn’t in, but his mother, Ruth, was. Ruth took a liking to Jim and told him that if he came back to the shop daily all that summer she would teach him magic.
That magic, it turned out, had nothing to do with sleight of hand. Ruth showed Jim meditation and visualization techniques to calm and focus his mind and increase his compassion for himself and others.
Now 60 and a neurosurgeon at Stanford, Doty acknowledges that his encounter with Ruth was unusual. “Retrospectively, as an adult, I’ve thought, ‘That was wild and bizarre. Did it really happen?’” he said by phone. Still, Doty credits Ruth with giving him the tools to emerge from an impoverished and chaotic childhood and graduate from college and medical school. Now he’s written a new memoir, “Into the Magic Shop: A Neurosurgeon’s Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart,” about his unlikely journey.
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