A physician’s story fires the imagination of a ten-year-old-boy seated in his classroom located in the California desert in the1960s. “I will be like him,” he says, no matter that hapless parents, grinding poverty, frequent evictions, and little incentive to study cramp his world; only magic tricks and his Sting-Ray bike distract him from its crippling malaise.

Two years later, he meets the grandmotherly Ruth in the Cactus Rabbit Magic Shop where he learns a different kind of magic: exercises to relax the body, to tame the mind, to open the heart, and to set intention. His inner world quickens through Ruth’s belief in him, the first he has ever experienced. Thirsty for more, he laps up these exercises that open him to change, tentative at first. He will become a physician.

From this set of synchronicities Dr. James R. Doty authors a memoir, Into the Magic Shop – A neurosurgeon’s quest to discover the mysteries of the brain and the secrets of the heart (2016). Precise selection of heart-wrenching experiences, interwoven with these exercises, tracks the attainment of his dream, and then some. Inflated by later success, however, he loses everything. This necessary diminishment grounds him in compassion and opens him to the face of God in all of life.

Teaching this attitude to medical students at Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) has become his new passion. Only through heart-caring does psychic wholeness occur.

The reader is also challenged to practice these exercises, listed in the memoir, and continue the arduous task of becoming human. It does work.