AUTHOR PROFILE: James Doty, MD, is a clinical professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at Stanford University and the director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University School of Medicine. He completed his undergraduate education at the University of CA, Irvine and medical school at Tulane University. He trained in neurosurgery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and completed fellowships in pediatric neurosurgery at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia (CHOP) and in neuroelectrophysiology focused on the use of evoked potentials to assess the integrity of neurological function. Dr. Doty is also an inventor, entrepreneur and philanthropist having given support to a number of charitable organizations including Children as the Peacemakers, Global Healing, the Pachamama Alliance and Family & Children Services of Silicon Valley.
Laura Connolly, Founder of WWB (aka Lauroly) Opening: Welcome Dr. Doty, it is my honor to have you join me for a Q&A at World Wise Beauty. Your book “Into the Magic Shop” has been out for two years but I just discovered it recently and just had to share it as a ‘Book Wise’ selection. The focus at World Wise Beauty is about cultivating wellness wisdom, with the understanding that each of us have our own unique journey in life. Your life story is a prime example of a ‘unique journey’ and cultivating wellness wisdom. There’s a beautiful speech you gave to medical students at Tulane University later in your career, that describes life’s ‘journey’ profoundly. You had tears in your eyes when you gave the speech and so did most of your audience. I would love to share it, but I think readers should discover it on their own when they read your book. It will mean so much more once they read your very personal story.
There are so many well respected authors and visionaries from around the world who sing praises about your book. One expert called it “a moving memoir focused on the power of compassion and kindness”. It would be too simple to say your book is about your life journey and how sometimes we lose our way to find our way. It’s so much more than this. It’s an extremely honest story about how disconnecting from ourselves ( our feelings, heart and our pain) can lead us astray and eventually catch up with us in self-destructive ways. It’s also an inspirational story because you created magic in your life with little to no support and despite the huge obstacles you faced at every major junction in your life. What I kept thinking in my head as I read your book, was a Robert Frost quote, “The best way out is always through.” Sometimes we have to live through things to become wise and self-actualize. The other thing I noted early on when reading your book, was how you stated unequivocally that you loved your parents, and you knew they loved you even when they let you down. This made me smile. Love is powerful and it overcomes and compensates for many things in our life. So what I would like to do is start here with a focus on love, and your belief that we are wired to ‘care, love and be kind’.
Lauroly Q- I know the protagonist in your book was “Ruth’ who demonstrated to you what unconditional kindness and compassion is, but what I found when reading your childhood memories is you had already possessed an abundance of love, kindness and compassion as a child. You were able to give love, and recognize love despite the turmoil of living with your dysfunctional family. You were also forgiving despite the real limitations of your alcoholic father. You were acutely aware of your parents challenges as a young boy, and you also knew they loved you. As I read your story, I kept thinking love has many languages and what is most important is that it is translated and understood. I love the chapter in your book “Alphabet of the Heart’. How did you know your parents loved you despite the disruptive turmoil in your home?
Lauroly Q- Thank you for your very sensitive and eloquent answer Dr. Doty. A wise quote from Plato that runs through my mind almost every day is “The part can never be well, unless the whole is well.” How many times have we seen public figures or celebrities fall apart or worse die, and wonder how could that be? They look fit, healthy and on top of the world and yet were literally crumbling inside because of either untreated mental illness, depression, lack of connection with both themselves and others around them, or struggling with severe drug addiction. Your inspiring story reminds us that mind, body and spirit must dance together. Herein lies the magic of our existence and the secret to living well. Do you think looking back at the young boy you were, you could really understand what Ruth meant by “letting your heart be your compass”? Perhaps your heart was just a bit over extended for a young boy? You had to grow up pretty fast didn’t you?
Lauroly Q- You were indeed fortunate to have met a special person like Ruth who shared her time and wisdom with you. This is the amazing thing about humans, that we can not only go through very painful experiences, but find forgiveness and go on to be compassionate human beings despite our past experiences. What do you think the catalyst is? Why can some hearts overcome and others completely close up? I want to say it is because somewhere along the way a person has to experience ‘kindness, compassion and love’. It may not be at home, but they have to know it, feel it, and experience it on their life journey. The younger the better. I always think about simple acts of kindness throughout my day interacting with people–how my kind actions however small can make a difference to a person traveling this journey of life.
Lauroly Closing: Thank you so much again for joining me Dr. Doty, and for writing this inspirational book. It is truly inspiring and enlightening and it most certainly opens the heart. I hope all my World Wise Beauties read ‘Into the Magic Shop’ and share it as well. They should also visit your CCARES website (The Center for Compassion & Altruism Research and Education) and learn more about the great work you are doing advancing the study of Compassion and Altruism. Wishing you continued inner peace and kindness on your wonderful life journey…