James Doty: Into the Magic Shop - Harnessing the Power of the Brain & the Heart | 180 Nutrition

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James Doty: Into the Magic Shop – Harnessing the Power of the Brain & the Heart

James Doty

Watch the full interview below or listen to the full episode on your iPhone HERE.

Guy:  This week we welcome to the show Dr James Doty. No exaggeration, this is a journey of mammoth proportions. He’s been there, done it, worn a t-shirt!

He 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, of which the Dalai Lama was the founding benefactor.

On top of his incredible resume, he’s also a great guy and it was a true privilege to interview James. If you have not heard of James or his book ‘Into The Magic Shop – A Neurosurgeons Quest To Discover The Mysteries Of The Brain & The Secrets Of The Heart‘, then you are in for a real treat! Sit back and enjoy as you discover the true magic that’s within us all.

Use Snapchat? Follow me at: GuyL180 or Click Here. 

 

Audio Version

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downloaditunesListen to StitcherQuestions we ask in this episode:

  • Why write the book, and what  message do you hope readers will gain from it or take action with?
  • What were the magic tricks that Ruth taught you?
  • You mention (in the book) isolation and loneliness puts us at greater risk for early disease and death than smoking. Please explain.
  • You’re a successful entrepreneur, and you made a great deal of money and then lost it then gave it away. Can you share with us what happened and why did you do that?
  • What are your non-negotiables to be the best version of yourself?

Get More Of James Doty

  • http://intothemagicshop.com/
  • http://ccare.stanford.edu/

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Full Transcript

Guy

into the magic shop bookHey. This is Guy Lawrence of 180 Nutrition. Welcome to this week’s episode of the Health Sessions where of course we are cutting through all the confusion by connecting with leading global health and wellness experts to share the best of the latest science and thinkering, empowering people to turn their health and lives around. Boy, do we have an episode for you today.

I’ve sure said in the past that I don’t like talking up the episodes too much, because I want the interview to just unfold as it goes and summarize your own conclusions from it, but it still ceases to amaze me till this day that sometimes you have a guest on, and you get simply blown away by it.

[00:01:00] Our special guest today is Dr. James Doty who is a neurosurgeon and a professor at the Stanford University in California. I’m not going to give too much away. It’s a long episode. I think it goes over for an hour. Relax, settle in, and let this journey unfold, because what James shares with you is a journey of mammoth proportions. He’s been there, done it, worn a t-shirt.

He’s written this book called, Into the Magic Shop which is a memoir of his life, and it’s a neurosurgeon’s quest to discover the mysteries of the brain, and the secrets of the heart. Keegan Smith from the Real Movement Project, a good mate of mine recommended it to me a few weeks back, and myself and my fiance sat down and read this thing within a week, and was blown away it.

[00:02:00] We reached out to James. He was kind enough to give up his time to come on the podcast to share his journey. His book has been read and endorsed by the Hoganas, the Dalai Lama, Arianna Huffington, to name a few, Dean Ornish. These guys are all praising it. This book has come out, and I’m sure in time this book is going to go absolutely viral, global and empower many, many people’s lives. I guarantee you’ll probably end up buying the book once you’ve read this, and I certainly recommend it. We would just want to push this to as many people as possible.

james doty & Dalai Lama

If you enjoy this episode, I’m going to ask you please share it with someone, because I truly think if somebody needs some inspiration, if they’re not in their best place, this podcast will help them, no doubt. It’s inspired me, no doubt too. Look, enjoy, let us know what you think, drop us an email, hit me up on Snapchat, or of course leave us a review. Let’s go for James Doty. Enjoy.

Hi, this is Guy Lawrence. I’m joined with Stuart Cooke as always. Hi Stuart.

Stu

Hello Guy.

Guy

Our fantastic guest today is Dr. James Doty. James, welcome to the show.

James

Wonderful to be here with you too. I don’t know what time it is there, but it’s great to be with you.

Stu

It’s 9:00 in the morning James. It’s crystal clear outside, and we’re looking forward to a beautiful Friday. Good morning from Australia.

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Guy

I reached out to you after reading your book. I think I read it within one week. I should give Keegan Smith a shout out as well, my friend because he recommended me this book a few weeks ago, and I loved the sound of it. He’s like, “You’ve got to check this book out.” Then I ordered it the next night, and myself and fiance literally read it in a week, and I was like, “Oh my God. This is fantastic.” Getting you on the show today is greatly appreciated. I just want to share that message with as many people as possible as well, so yeah, fantastic.

The first question I love to ask everyone James on the show is if you were on an aero-plane and a complete stranger sat next to you and asked you what you did a for a living, what would you say?

James

[00:04:00] Sometimes people will just engage in an idle conversation to be polite, and if that’s the case I simply tell them I’m a doctor. There is another subset of people though who clearly are sincerely interested. It’s not a matter of chit-chat, but they are truly interested in what you’re doing, or who you are. If I have a sense it’s that type of a person, I tell them that I have a deep interest in compassion, and in fact I study compassion, and how being compassionate or being of service can change ones life.

Guy

[00:05:00] The long version as well for the podcast we ask everyone to just discuss a bit about their journey, and background, and how you got to this point today, but obviously the book is a memoir of that journey as well. It’s a great place to start. Could you take us back to the beginning? How it’s … From that point when you talk about being a 10 year old and so forth, because it’s a phenomenal journey and I’d love everyone to hear it.

James

It’s interesting because of course who we are today is always a manifestation of that journey. My journey as a child begun with a father who was an alcoholic and a mother who had had a stroke and was partially paralyzed, had a seizure disorder, was chronically depressed, and attempted suicide multiple times. Neither of my parents had gone to college.

[00:06:00] In fact we were on public assistance essentially the entire time of my childhood. Of course that type of a background is not typically associated with what society defines as success. In fact I was heading in the direction of not having a future. I was becoming a juvenile delinquent, because if you have a sense of despair and hopelessness or not having possibilities, it really doesn’t matter what you do. I was feeling this way.

One fateful day at age 12 actually, I walked into a magic shop. I had an interesting magic, a little bit, and I had been riding my bicycle in an area that I typically didn’t go to, and here was this magic shop in a street mall. I walked in. The owner was not there, but his mother was sitting behind the counter actually reading a book and she looked up. I describe her as an earth mother. This was in 1968 actually. Her and I began a conversation and the first thing she told me was if I had questions about magic in the store, she knew nothing about it. She had this radiant smile.

[00:07:00] All of us meet people who their very nature of their personality is one that embraces you as soon as you meet them. She had that type of smile and personality. She actually started asking me some very penetrating questions about my background, my family situation, what I wanted to be. After about 15 or 20 minutes of conversation, she said to me, “I’m here for another 6 weeks. If you show up everyday, I think I could teach you something that could change your life.”

That interaction with that woman fundamentally changed the trajectory of my life, and made me go from what I felt was a situation where I had limited to few possibilities to really one of unlimited possibilities.

Guy

Amazing. Why do you think she did that in the beginning, because it would have been so easy not to have …

Stu

Not necessarily why, I want to know what she said to you, like tell me … Please reveal.

James

You mean over the period of the 6 weeks with her or …

Stu

Yes.

James

She was obviously an incredibly, intuitive, and insightful person. I think all of us meet people. On some level we’ll see that they are suffering or in need although they may not directly say that. We respond to that, at least a lot of people do. She was a type of person clearly who saw that if you will I was lost, or I was not necessarily going in the right direction.
[00:09:00] She offered to help me, and help me she did. That period of 6 weeks was transformative. In the book what I do is I basically divide it into 4 parts. In fact I actually call it 4 tricks that Ruth taught me. One of the things that we don’t appreciate especially if we have a life of stress and anxiety is that that stress and anxiety manifests itself in a few ways.

[00:10:00] One is it creates restlessness in your body and often times tight muscles. That stress and anxiety also limits your ability to focus and have attention. What I know today and I think what all of us acknowledge is that if you don’t have the ability to attend and focus, it is hard to accomplish tasks, and tasks are what are necessary to achieve. The other interesting thing about it is that clearly this woman must have had some background in eastern philosophy and practice, and I’ll go over those 4 tricks if you will …

Guy

That will be great.

James

This woman’s name was Ruth, but at that time of course in 1968 those types of terms of meditation and mindfulness were not used at all commonly, and in fact probably those practices were limited to a very few people in the general population. I was in a real community in the high desert, so the likelihood of me running across someone was almost zero.
[00:11:00] The other thing is the concept that we commonly use today that was not even talked about was this idea of neuroplasticity or the ability to change your brain. For centuries until the last half century, I should say maybe in the last few decades, this concepts of you having the ability to change your neurons or the pathways, or to grow neurons was completely dismissed, and so what she did first of all was to recognize my situation quite clearly.

[00:12:00] Basically she started with a practice of relaxing the body, and as part of that learning to attend or be focused or if you will be present. That first lesson really was a [mesed 00:11:46] whereby I relaxed in the chair, and consciously went through my different muscle groups to relax my body, and also combine that with the mantra, although she indicated on what I talk about in the book, you can use the mantra, or you can look at a candle or a just look in the distance.

Then over and over as you start drift come back to that point, but making sure before that you are completely relaxed, because it’s the relaxation and the recognition that your muscles are tight, and once that you’re relaxed, it allows you to get the framework to be attentive or focused.

[00:13:00] That really was the first thing she taught me that did take some time. Then the next thing was this idea of taming the mind, because what happens for so many of us and we don’t appreciate it, is that there is an ongoing dialogue in our head. What many of us don’t appreciate is that that conversation or dialogue is not us in the sense that it doesn’t define us. It’s an artificial creation, and I don’t know about in Australia, but certainly in the USA and a lot of the west, the conversation is not one of affirmation or positivity.

Guy

It’s negative, yeah.

James

[00:14:00] Exactly. Many of us go through life telling ourselves we are not good enough, we are not smart enough to enjoy the benefits of our success, or that we don’t deserve our success, or that goals and aspirations that we have are not realistic and we should just give up on it. What she did was she made me understand that this was almost like a radio station, and that the DJ if you will was a construct based on interactions with all sorts of people, and as telling ourselves that we are not good enough because we respond to this negativity of people.

When you come from a background like mine, and what a lot of people have in their own backgrounds is people say to another person, “I really have a dream of doing this,” they go, “You’ll never do that, you are not smart enough,” or “Jeez look you tried that and you failed, so you might as well not waste your time.” You don’t realize often times is that negativity is coming from them, because they are not able to succeed, because they are listening to their own conversation going on in their head, and they don’t want to see you succeed.

Guy

Interesting.

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James

[00:15:00] What happened is that she really made me understand that reality. The first thing she taught me was not to have a emotional reaction to that conversation, because if you are beating yourself up all the time, what it does is again it creates anxiety, it creates stress, and it creates a general bad feeling. All of that has effect on your physiology to stimulate your sympathetic nervous system which is part of your autonomic nervous system, and that stimulation results in you being very hyper vigilant, ready for the sky to fall in on you, and always looking around, wondering what’s going to happen to you.

[00:16:00] It makes you close minded often times, it decreases your creativity, it affects your executive control function. What she did was taught me how to not have that emotional response, but just to let the thoughts go by, not to grab onto them, not to respond to them. Then over a period of time, she actually taught me that I could change the channel to one of affirmation and positivity.

Stu

How did she go about doing that, can you outline some of the principles that she would have taught you.

James

[00:17:00] Well, again it’s fairly explicit in the book, and in fact if you go to my website for the book called intothemagicshop.com, I actually give a guided exercise or mediation on these 4 tricks, but basically once you do the relaxing the body if you will, and you are present and you are attending, then that allows you to sit with these conversations that is going on independent of you.

Then you start hearing these thoughts or paying attention to these thoughts or words that are going on in your head, and then you start understanding what they are, and being aware of them and that’s certainly part of it. Once that happens and you understand it is not you, and you don’t have to have response to them, then now you are in a position to change them. It’s just a process of going through each aspect of this, and breaking it down sitting with it, and understanding it.

Guy

That’s fascinating. Do you think James that that was more effective for you because of your age …

Stu

That’s exactly what I was going to ask.

Guy

[00:18:00] Because we’re often told that the developing brain is open to accelerated growth, greater learning, because I’m also interested in the fact that after that 6 week period, you would have gone back to your home. The very much the broken home, and all of the troubles that were going on there, but it seems like you were able to cope with that in a very different way.

James

Well that’s exactly right, and let me finish with these 2 other exercises, and then we’ll actually we’ll go back to the comment you just made.

Guy

Okay.

Stu

Okay.

James

After, if you will, you tame your mind, the next thing that she taught me was that having an open heart, or recognizing your own suffering is very, very important and probably the most important thing, because what happens is when you yourself are in pain, often times you shut yourself off to others, and you ruminate about your own situation.

[00:19:00] When you are alone ruminating about your own situation, often times it becomes an echo chamber that reinforces if you will the hopelessness or despair that you have. When you open your heart and look outward, and you recognize that in some ways everyone is suffering, well they may be on a different journey than you, they are not immune to the very grease of life, having loved ones who do bad things toward them, or having tragedy in your life.

What it did was it made me look at my family situation differently. Instead of being angry at my father for let’s say spending his paycheck or getting arrested or whatever, my mother attempting suicide and being completely angry with this abandonment if you will, or this pain she was causing me. It allowed me to look at them independent of that as human beings who are on their own journey, and who are doing their own actions out of their own pain.

[00:20:00] When you are able to look at people that way, it diffuses your own anger, because you sit there and you are saying I understand, they are not doing … This isn’t about me, it’s about their own problems, their own suffering. Because so many times when someone does something that affects us, we think that it is because of something we’ve done, or that they are doing it because we’re not good enough or they are angry at us or they don’t love us, when often times it has nothing to do with that, they are just dealing with their own situation. It allowed me to no longer have that anger and hostility towards them, nor my personal situation.

[00:21:00] The last lesson that Ruth taught me which related in some ways to the first in terms of attention and focus, was this idea of clarity of intention, where once I learnt those first 3 lessons, I understood that clarity or visualizing what you wanted to manifest, and having crystal clear intention about that, allows you to accomplish tasks.

What I mean by that was that she made me understand that if I had a goal or something I wanted to accomplish, well initially when I look at it in my own mind I may not see it as a crystal clear picture, but if I repeated it, if I sorted my mind over and over and over again over time that over that period of time, the clarity of the image, or the clarity of the vision or the clarity of the intention would continue to improve, and at the point where essentially it is crystal clear is when in fact it will manifest.

[00:22:00] This isn’t to say that if you were to make a goal to go from point A to point B, that it would be a straight line, but what it does was to create this subconscious intention, and while there may be detours and ups and downs, and if all of that being said you will more often than not accomplish that task if you really do utilize this technique of visualization and clarifying your intention. Of course though that’s understanding that this is not though actions that could potentially hurt or harm another person, they have to have some degree of purity in the sense of doing something positive.

[00:23:00] It was those 4 lessons that allowed me to change my life, and what I tell people is that prior to this, I felt like a leaf being blown by an ill wind. Afterwards I felt like I had unlimited or endless possibilities. The most important thing was that my personal circumstance did not change as you mentioned, I went back home to the exact same situation.

[00:24:00] What fundamentally changed was that I did not react the same way to my situation. You have to understand that it is not the situation itself that actually affects us; it is how we react to the situation. What it allowed me to do was to no longer get emotionally engaged with these events that I couldn’t control. It allowed me to no longer have anger and hostility about my situation, and fundamentally by myself changing how I reacted to the world in my circumstance changed how the world reacted to me.

When the world changed how it reacted to me, it allowed me to have endless possibilities in that world ultimately, allowing me to go to college, to attend medical school, become a neurosurgery. As you know I’m a professor of neurosurgery at Stanford University, it allowed me to become a successful entrepreneur, ultimately being CEO of a company that went public for $1.3 billion.

[00:25:00] It allowed me to have an extraordinary life, but the thing though that got lost in this for me early on was that I had the first and second and last lesson quite clearly, but I as a child at that age missed the third one, which was having an opened heart. I don’t mean that I ever mean or evil, but I still thought that success meant accumulating money and power. I thought that as a child when you are in poverty or as an adult in poverty, you don’t have power.

[00:26:00] People look at you a certain way, they treat you a certain way, if you want to do something you are not able to do it so often. I believed that if I fulfilled the typical criteria for success, and if I accumulated large amounts of money, it would number one give me control and so that I wouldn’t be hurt, and also that when I had this position of money and power, that I would automatically be happy, and that everyone would love me, and I would be this great guy.

What happened was that I was able to attain great success, and ultimately I ended up being divorced, but I was head of neurosurgery at one of the best hospitals, a private hospital. I was financially very successful, I was driving a Ferrari, I had a pent house. I was dating beautiful women, in fact I was in some local magazine I think bachelor of the year, bachelor of the month or something.

[00:27:00] I had everything which so many people think that they want. I would go home or with someone often times and wake up the next morning and be miserable. I had never been more miserable than when I was at the peak of “success.” I was lost because I couldn’t understand it, I thought if I did these things, if I had all this money, if I gave the appearance of success, living in a big house, driving an expensive car, dressing well, having this incredible position, that somehow I would just feel happy. I have never been more unhappy in my life.

[00:28:00] It took an event where I essentially lost everything in 6 weeks with the dot com crash, and this talked about in the book. I went from having $77 million to minus 3 million in 6 weeks. I will assure you that does get your attention. I have to tell you though that that was the greatest gift that I was given, because what it did was it made me reflect about here I had everything but I was miserable. All the actions I was engaging in did not give me the sustenance or nourishment that I needed as a human being to make me happy.

[00:29:00] It allowed me to go back and reflect on this experience that I had with this woman Ruth, and to pass it out into all of the aspects to understand what was going on. Ultimately what I realized was that, well yes I was a doctor, yes I was of service to others, yes generally speaking I was a nice guy. That being said I was also absolutely focused on attaining certain things that actually were meaningless.

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At that point when I had nothing, I was confronted with the situation that I had made certain commitments to charity and I had no money, but I had had stock in this company, I had mentioned where I was the CEO and had gone public. Before the company went public to live up to those obligations, I gave every share I had at the stock away to charity.

[00:30:00] Again that company untimely went public, I ended up giving tens of millions of dollars to charity, and it allowed me though to then create this center at Stanford where I examine the neuroscience of compassion and altruism. It also allowed me to meet the Dalai Lama who became the founding benefactor of that center. It’s led me on an incredible journey of personal fulfillment, and the recognition that the more I give, the more I serve, the more I am there for others that this is the thing that so many of us miss, because it’s when you are in that position that you are actually getting the nourishment that your soul if you will needs.

As a result of that I have developed relationships with some of the greatest spiritual teachers or religious leaders in the world, as well as many, many other people who have so enriched my life, and have given me a sense of meaning and contentment that I had not experienced ever. This book is a manifestation of that in that as I have gone around related to this work that I do with compassion often times I have used examples of my own journey.

[00:31:00] Many people said to me, “Wow that’s incredibly powerful you should write a book.” I had always resisted, because I already was fairly busy. I have a family, I’m a neurosurgeon, I do this research around the center. I speak all over the world. I really didn’t have time to do a book. What happened was an individual … It was Doug who really persisted frankly. Finally that person said to me and this person’s alliteration. He said Jim you don’t appreciate how powerful and inspiring your stories are. He says I want you to know that they are.

[00:32:00] He says, but for me personally my father who’s now in his 80s and is ill, I’ve shown him some of your videos and talks and things, and he is been profoundly moved. He said my father is my hero, and I would really love to give your book to him as a gift to him. How can you say to that? What’s interesting is I said yes, and I checked this guy out. I goggled him which is what we all do nowadays. I just said yes, and this led to us creating a proposal and ultimately that book as you see was written over about a2, 2 and a half year period. It’s New York Times best seller, and it’s no actually been translated to 21 languages.

Guy

When did the book come out, was it March this year or?

James

February of this year.

Guy

February.

James

[00:33:00] Yeah, and it’s really been quite extraordinary. What’s interesting is that person literary agent, it turned out he was actually Desmond tutu’s literary agent. He had been Mandela’s, and he had done a book with Richard Branson. He is … 5 of his authors had written New York Times bestsellers, I think a year before my book came out. It was a very fruituitous accidental meeting actually.

Stu

That is an unbelievable and inspiring story; I cannot wait to get my hands on that book. Guy’s just finished it, Guy are you coming when to my place?

Guy

I will bring it with me today.

Stu

If you don’t bring that book I will not let you in the door. It just sounds James that you wondered into that magic shop and found the most magical thing that the world could ever present it with you, unbelievable.

James

[00:34:00] No, I was extraordinarily blessed, and when you get the book if you look at the endorsements you won’t see many books. I mean there are scientists who have endorsed it. There are business people Arianna Huffington has done a blurb as well as Deepak Chopra. You’ll sell them if ever see a book that has endorsements from the Dalai Lama. Take that home, Sogyal Rinpoche who wrote the Tibet book of living and dying. Matthieu Ricard who you may know, who is a Buddhist monk. I think I mentioned take that home, Shri Shirr Ravi Shankar who founded the Art of Living. Also Amma, the hugging guru, and there would have been many more actually those types of people, I just run out of time and space.

[00:35:00] The extraordinary thing about that is that those types of people would be so moved by this book and my journey, that they would take time to actually read this book, and write an endorsement for it. These are not just endorsements that, oh well I have to do this, and I’m going to write a one runner. These are very powerful statements by these people. Anyone listening can again go to the website, intothemagicshop.com, and there is actually a listing of all of those. I still I’m moved by reading that.

Stu

That’s fantastic; well you’ve just blown out my Friday night because I’m going to start to read your book. I wanted to ask you given what you had learned over that journey in terms of all of this amazing spiritual and emotional stuff that has such deep seated meaning in how we can shape our lives, why did you not become a teacher in these practices, and you decided to become a neurosurgeon instead?

James

[00:36:00] Well first of all I and again I talk about it in the book. When I was in fourth grade there was a teacher who visited my class, and he so moved me and impressed me. At that moment I decided to be a doctor even though with my background and position, the likelihood of that was probably almost zero at that time. The other thing is in some ways I do, do that now with the nature of this book, and I give talks and I do teachings. In some ways I am that person now. I receive hundreds of emails from people who have been moved by my talks in this book, or times I have spent with them, and it’s not that I’m the reluctant guru.

Guy

That’s nice to hear.

James

[00:37:00] It was not my intention to do that, I have not solved that out. That being said I don’t shy away from that, because if any of us have an ability or talent that can inspire or motivate or give people a set of tools that can change their lives, we are blessed to be able to be in that position. I’m certainly happy to give them myself, and in fact that’s part of being of service.

It’s interesting I had a Hindu swami’s visit me recently. He was given a lecturer at Stanford of which I actually was not involved with. He came to me, and he said I was so moved by your book I had to come and see you. At the end of our conversation which ended up to be quite emotional he said, “Would you please come with me and speak with me at Stanford.” In fact we did his talk together, and it was a wonderful thing.

[00:38:00] Again being able to interact with these spiritual leaders is such a joy, because when you see an authentic spiritual or religious leader, being in their presence is being in the presence of someone who loves you unconditionally. If you meet somebody who, like the woman in the magic shop or others who as soon as you are in their presence, you will feel this immense energy, and this embracing of you. Because what happens to so many of us is that it’s hard for us to be authentic in modern society, because we are always afraid we are being judged.

[00:39:00] As a result we project this image of what we want people to see of us. The thing we certainly don’t want them to see is our darker shadow side which all of us have. Or to see that we are in pain or suffering. Yet when you allow yourself to be seen, when you don’t shy away from that and you allow someone to just love you, it’s the most extraordinary thing in the world, because suddenly there is a lightness to your being, because you don’t appreciate how much psychic energy it takes to maintain that projection, and to hide your own pain and suffering.

Stu

Personal identity.

James

When I give talks often times my voice breaks or I get emotional. I don’t mind, because as soon as I do that, do you know what happens? It allows everyone permission to do that. When I’ve gone that way, I’ve never had somebody come up and go, ha, ha, ha you are a wimp, right?

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Guy

Yeah.

James

[00:40:00] In fact people come up and hug you and they want to love you, because when you show your own vulnerability, when you show that you are authentic, people want to love you, because we are wired that way. We are wired when we see someone in pain or suffering to embrace them, and so many people are afraid of being embraced. In fact it’s funny, I don’t know if you know University Queensland and Brisbane. Actually there is a scientist there, a psychologist too, actually he is very interested in this topic, and it’s now the voters’ rights factors.

He came and visited me at Stanford and we became friends. Then he decided to create a center that studies compassionate in University of Queensland. He asked me to speak at their inaugural event as the key note. They created the center, and I came down there, and it was funny because I’m a hugger. When I hugged him he would stiffen up. I made my life quite … Every time I saw him to hug him.

Stu

[00:41:00] That’s fantastic. For some reason it just popped in to my mind you are speaking about stress, and also people stiffening up and stuff like that. We just bought a kitten okay, and it just occurred to me that pets give unconditional love, okay? Pets don’t judge us for anything that we say. They conditionally love us regardless, and we hug them and we give so much love to our pets.

That in turn helps to relieve our stress, our daily stress. Pet’s unconditional love as a strategy to pull stress out of our lives. Since we work in really well, the whole family, my 3 children and wife, we love this cat and it gives us so much love. Outside of that how much does stress affect our brain?

James

[00:42:00] Oh it’s profound. In the US there is an epidemic of stress, anxiety and depression and loneliness. The reason is that if you look back to 200 or 300 years ago when we lived in communities, what was the situation? It was multi generational families, right? Your parents, your grandparents, your children, all lived within proximity or together. You lived in a community that you grew up in, so everyone knew you. From the time you were a little kid everyone knew your bad stuff, your good stuff and what did they do? They loved you; you were part of the community.

[00:43:00] In fact when we look at blue zones which are these areas where people live over … Commonly over a century, one of the most important aspects of this is that, it is a community, it is multi generational and it is one of caring, nurturing and love. Because we are hard wired to be that way in the United States and I’m sure probably in Australia, what happens? You grow up somewhere, you move away and often times you move to multiple places growing up.

Then when you become an adult you move one place. Your parents may stay where they are, or retire to a different place. Your siblings are in another place, you have no one who really knows you. In fact in the United States 25% of people say on surveys that when they are in pain and suffering, they have no one they feel comfortable talking with, 25% of people.

Stu

Yeah, that’s huge, that’s massive.

James

[00:44:00] Okay and so no one knows you. You do not feel comfortable going to someone and saying, I heard, I’m in pain, I failed, I did this, I did that, and to be embraced and say, “It’s okay, we love you.” That is the problem, and this I what we are all searching for or yearning for. This is why when you meet a person even the first time you meet them you can tell a person who is that type of a person. Who looks at you, sees you, and is not going to judge you.

Stu

Right.

Guy

Yeah, it’s funny James I even highlighted a part in your book that was … You mentioned that isolation and loneliness puts us at greater risk for early disease and death and smoking basically. It really highlighted the part, because we are in such a world where we are intimately connected online, but we don’t actually have the human connection.

Stu

I wonder then if that fold has any bearing on the prevalence of neurodegenerative disease that we are seeing today, because there seems to be a definite issue with the wiring now in our brains. From 60 plus I’m seeing Parkinson’s outside Missouri onset. Just it’s everywhere. Is this a problem, do you think this stems from the stress and lack of community?

James

Well I think it could be, but you have to remember that the way we evolved as a species frankly we were never meant to survive beyond the age of 45, right?

Stu

Okay.

James

[00:46:00] It basically, that should be your mid 30s is all downhill from there. That certainly may contribute to it. We know that if one is lonely, it has a huge, huge detriment on your health, and it results in increased frequency of disease, increased duration of disease and increased negative outcome from those diseases. It has a profound, profound effect in your health, because loneliness in and of itself is a stressor. Again it gets back to this point, when you are in a community of being loved and people are accepting you for whoever you are whatever you’ve done.

This actually results in your parasympathetic sympathetic nervous system, this part of your autonomic nervous system that is associated with what we call up at times rest and digest, that stimulates this affiliative behavior; it stimulates a sense of calmness. It lowers your blood pressure. It improves cardiac function. It decreases stress hormone levels which are when they are chronically released even to low level, it’s horrible for your health. It boosts your immune system.

[00:47:00] We were made to be that person. Because again we evolved as a species, and the integral part of it is that to have something that we call theory of mind, to have abstract thinking and complex language, have this absolute requirement that our offspring are cared for, for a decade and a half probably. Yet to expand the energy and resources necessary to do that, because our offspring are also very at risk, they cannot survive without us. There had to be a link that motivated us to care for them.

[00:48:00] That link, this absolute hard wired desire to recognize the suffering of our offspring to intervene and elevate that pain or suffering is manifested through actually a sense of pleasure or stimulation or increased metabolism in our pleasure centers when we act in that fashion to care and nurture. Also when we receive that care and nurturing, it also results in our physiology working at its best. As we evolve from the nuclear family to the hunter gatherer tribes of 10 to 50 which was our survival strategy until 68,000 years ago. It was absolutely critical in this harsh environment that you recognized when someone was in pain and suffering, because if you did not, it put the group at risk.

[00:49:00] The ability to interpret micro facial expressions, body language or body habit is … Even smell was critically important. Again it was this trade that not only allowed for alleviation of suffering, but survival of our species, but brought us benefit. Then as we domesticated animals and plants etcetera, and created more leisure time and then society, culture, religion. At the core of all of this is actually compassion, and caring for the other at least in its ideal manifestation.

The criticality or the centrality of that is that that is what defines our humanity. That is when we function at our best, and that is what ultimately gives meaning. Because at the end of your days it’s not going to be about the money you made. It’s not going to be about a big house you live in. The thing that’s going to give import in your life frankly is what you have done for others.

Guy

[00:50:00] Yeah, it’s amazing, it’s funny because we live in a world that we are almost hypnotized into thinking that we need the house, we need … The keeping up with the Joneses, and buying into this consumerism constantly, and we are actually isolating ourselves from other people. Like I’m a Welshman from Wales living in Australia, and I’ve just moved again, and I’m slowly making friends in that, but it has a different impact on me even just from that alone. I don’t even think about it until you have these conversations; you know it’s quite incredible.

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James

Well and the thing is that we don’t have enough of these conversations, right. We get lost in our often time before we think our mundane lives, but these types of thought, the types of actions where you function with intention in regard to what I have been talking about. These are the things that often times will give your life great meaning, and in fact you realize all the other stuff is window dressing, it doesn’t matter.

[00:51:00] It’s always interesting to me because if you will before you have experience in wisdom you often think that driving the big car, a fast car, or living in a big house is important. If you look at people actually once they get to their 70s, they realize that it’s all BS, and you walk into their house, and it’s not that clean anymore, and the furniture is the same furniture they’ve had for 20 or 30 years.

They aren’t accumulating, yet they are happy, satisfied, and so it’s unfortunate, often times it takes pain and suffering to learn certain life lessons, or to gain wisdom. Obviously the ideal is that you read the history of our ages where many of the things that I’ve talked about have been understood for thousands of years in certain traditions, yet so many of us have to learn them ourselves, or understand or gain that insight, and that we are missing something, and then it takes us on a journey to understand.

[00:52:00] Hopefully what my book does is it mares many of the experiences people have had in terms of their own pain and suffering, and then give some insights that will help them along their journey, and manifest ultimately a sense of understanding and insight into how they can change their own lives to give them that same meaning and contentment.

Guy

Yeah, look this is brilliant, I mean it’s a roller-coaster what you clearly capture in that book, and in everything do you still practice Ruth’s tricks to this day?

James

[00:53:00] Yes, but you have to understand I started out meditating for 2 or 3 hours every day for a number of years, and then what happens is, and if you read some of [inaudible 00:53:00] books and others, it becomes so ingrained in you that frankly your life is one of mindfulness or meditation in everything that you do. If you look at it that way it’s no longer something where you have to always think about, it’s just who you are, but what I do is, if you recall on the book I talked about the alphabet of the heart. That’s 10 letters which was created if you will because I was asked to speak to the medical students who were just starting medical school, and to be part of something that is in the US.

[00:54:00] I don’t know if it’s the Australian medical school system, but we have something called the White Coat Ceremony. I wanted to give these students who were about to start this journey something that they could use as a tool, or a mnemonic to help them on their own journey, not only as physicians, but as a human beings. I characterized this as the alphabet of the heart which is C through L. That actually is my practice, and in fact what I do every morning is with intention and consciousness, and clarity of intention go through that.

[00:55:00] It’s C compassion for self and others, it’s D recognizing the dignity of every person, E is practicing equanimity. Understanding that having a level mental state if you will in the face of the ups and downs of life is very and very important, because again as we talked about, events have no meaning unless you give them meaning. They have no power unless you give them power, and understanding that allows you to have this evenness of spirit. It’s not to say you don’t enjoy the ups, or you don’t recognize the pain of the downs, is just you see them for what they are.

F is forgiveness, practicing forgiveness. All of us have hurt other people, and all of us have been hurt, and when you hold on to that anger and hostility associated with that hurt, you are not doing a service to me. You are doing a disservice to yourself. Often times the analogy is made that this is like drinking poison somehow thinking it’s going to affect the other person, and it doesn’t. It also locks you into the state where you are always having, again these emotions that cause stress. By giving someone forgiveness, no longer holding that anger, it’s actually a gift to yourself.

[00:56:00] G is gratitude because for most of us, as an example if you and I are in this conversation, we are better off than probably 99% of people in the world. What happens so often though is people are looking at those who have more or who they think are somehow more successful, instead of looking around them and seeing how blessed they are with what they have. Once you are able to have gratitude, every day for your blessings it changes everything, because again if you’re always envious, if you’re always jealous, if you’re always wanting, if you always have attachment. It only creates a negative mental state.

[00:57:00] Then, let’s see, H, I forgot I, H and I, so H is humility, and I will tell you for a neurosurgeon that’s the hardest thing, but recognizing that you are no better than anyone else. That everyone you meet is your equal, and has something important to say, that their life experience is important, their story is important, and regardless of what job title you have, how much money you have, we are all equal, and we are all the same in this world, and our lives are just as valuable. Their lives and our lives have equal value.

[00:58:00] Then I is integrity, and having personal values that you live by, a set of rules, a more ethical framework of your life that defines who you are and how you react to the world. Then J is justice, our responsibility for those who are most vulnerable, and then K is kindness which is the active component of compassion, and then all contained by love. I go through that consciously every day, and often times I pick one of those letters throughout the day and sit with it for a few moments, and in my mind go through what that means, and that really centers me throughout the day.

This is what I, hopefully the gift I gave to those medical students. What’s interesting about those 10 letters, and in fact if you actually go to the website there is a poster you can download, but let me tell you a quick story about the power of actions that we do that we don’t even think about. I will tell you 2 stories, one is someone sent me a picture of those 10 letters of the alphabet, and they were doing medical missionary work in Nicaragua. That was in the operating room, you scrub your hats above there right, can you imagine?

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[00:59:00] The other is that a few months after I had given that talk, I got an email from a woman who is the spiritual director at the largest homeless shelter in United States, and she said, “I had to send this email to you, because I had become overwhelmed by my work, I could no longer do it, I was burned out, I had nothing left emotionally, and I had decided to resign. All my friends had sent me a scripture, and words to try to help me get the strength to return back.” She said, “I had nothing left, and on my last day at work a friend gave me your talk, and it was so moving to me, it gave me the strength to return to work.”

[01:00:00] The thing about that is that a few months later she sent me another email, and she said, “You know we’ve started using this with our clients and has become so very powerful, and I just wanted to let you know that.” A few months more passed, and she said, “You know a friend of mine’s daughter makes beads and I had told her this story, and I think her 12 year old daughter decided to make a set of beads based on those 10 letters, 10 wooden beads, and she said she decided to add a golden bead that represented the golden rule.”

She said, “This is a mole in every religion, there are beads that people go through, so she created this. She said, I have been using this for a while now, and would you mind if we sold this as a fundraiser for our organization?” They started doing that, and a few months later she says, “You know this was so powerful, and it has become just an amazing thing, we decided to make a video.”

[01:01:00] They did a wonderful video that talk about how in every tradition there are beads, and that by using these, these can create compassion, super neuro highways, and strengthen your own attention. It’s a wonderful video if you were to go to You Tube and look compassion beads, and she is part of something also called the San Antonio Peace Center. You will find the video, but it’s really quite moving and powerful, and again it’s just an extraordinary thing.

In fact I carry those beads with me now in my pocket all the time, and so now when I walk around and round just throughout the day, I will put my hand in my pocket, I will feel those beads, and I will pick a letter, and again I will just with it again. That has actually become my practice, and in fact what’s interesting is, often times I’m asked to attend workshops about … We have a compassion cultivation training program that we use in a variety of settings.

[01:02:00] One is which with nurses and doctors who are having issues of [inaudible 01:01:57] resilience. Now many of them use the actually the creation of these beads, or they will buy a bunch of wooden beads, and gold beads, and the string, and actually it’s part of a workshop. They will actually make those, and go through these, and carry them with them, and so it’s just an amazing thing.

Guy

It’s amazing, like the ripple effect that can happen, isn’t it? It’s just fantastic.

Stu: That is amazing, for a minute I thought you were going to tell me that the video became so successful that your friend actually managed to buy a Ferrari, and then realized that she had to go back to the beginning again.

James

[01:03:00] You know actually she lives very humbly, and she is just dedicated to the work that she does, but what is funny is I had invited her to come to Stanford when I was supposed in the Dalai Lama. She sent me this note, “Thank you so much for the invitation, but unfortunately my financial circumstances preclude me from doing that, but I will be there with you in spirit.” I said, “Listen, why don’t you come and be a consultant for me, and then you can teach more about the beads?”

I hired her as a consultant to Stanford, and attended this event, with the Dalai Lama, and she brought actually a bunch of beads with her, and she gave me some, and she kept some. I had the blessed by the Dalai Lama, and it ended up being a wonderful, wonderful event for her, and me as well. I ended up actually going there and speaking of the center and touring the homeless shelter, and ended up actually giving a sermon in the church. There you have it, apparently I am becoming a … Is it a preacher or I don’t know anymore.

Stu

That’s fantastic, that is an awesome story, it’s so inspiring.

Guy

[01:04:00] Yeah absolutely, I’m aware our show is coming to a close James, and we actually ask everyone one question at the end, the same question every week. It’s simply; actually you have the answer to this one. What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

 

James

To have an open heart.

Guy

To have an open heart.

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Stu

Right.

James

I will tell you what people forget is no matter your circumstance, who you are, the job you have or for your position, each of us has the ability to improve on others life every day.

Guy

Fantastic, absolutely.

Stu

That’s right, and it would probably for all of us to think a little more deeply on that as well every day, because we are so caught up in the super highway of our day to day lives, but yeah, stop, smell the roses and think about what you just said.

Guy

For everyone listening to this James, where is the best place to send them, is that the, into the Magic Shop website?

James

[01:05:00] intothemagicshop.com or the center I run at Stanford, it’s probably 2 or 300 of hours of videos, a variety of things. In fact I do a thing called conversations on compassion with the variety of individual scientists, business leaders, actors, spiritual leaders, where we just talk for an hour and a half on stage about their back story if you will, and what is it in their lives that motivates them to be a better person, and to care for others. That’s C care, ccare@stanford.edu.

Guy

Perfect, we will link to all the show notes, and send this across to seriously as many people as we possibly can, so they can listen to this, and go get your book, because James, you know just to close it I just want to thank you for actually giving us a couple of guys in Australia your time, and your message for us. We feel truly honored to have you on the show, and I have no doubt everyone that is going to listen to this is going to benefit greatly, so thanks very much.

James

Well I have to tell you, I have a very soft spot in my heart for Australia. I have been there many times, I love the people, and I may end up living there at some point, so I may become an Aussie.

Guy

Wow, well make sure you look us up if you do man. We know some great spots in Australia.

James

There are, there are, so take care, and if I can help anyone please drop me a note.

Guy

Thank you.

Stu

Fantastic and you enjoy the rest of your day. I’m truly honored to have you on, thanks so much James.

James

Thank you, take care.

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    6 Responses to James Doty: Into the Magic Shop – Harnessing the Power of the Brain & the Heart

    1. Lynne
      September 11, 2016 at 8:32 am

      Really enjoyed the interview! I looked on both websites and could not find that poster of The Alphabet of the Heart. I would really like to print it out. Please let me know where I might find it, thanks.

    2. Dana Eden
      October 3, 2016 at 1:17 pm

      I just wanted to shout out a massive THANK YOU for your informative podcasts! I have started listening to them during my workouts and the gems I pick up from each of these podcasts are invaluable to my mindset, health and fitness. I LOVED listening to James Doty speak in such an easy to understand manner and walked away feeling motivated. I have started to recommend your podcast on my website to my clients as I believe you guys are creating FANTASTIC change Keep up the awesome interviews :)

      • Guy Lawrence
        October 4, 2016 at 1:36 pm

        Thanks for the kind words Dana, good to know that we’re on track :)

    3. Ernesto Manzanilla
      November 12, 2016 at 11:34 am

      I have never Heard Any one that that can proyecto ideas so clear like Dr James Dotyo I am so greatfool to you for this amazing information that was so valúable to me. I defenetly but his Book.

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