Into the Magic Shop Summary and Review

by James R. Doty, MD
Has Into the Magic Shop by James R. Doty, MD been sitting on your reading list? Pick up the main ideas in the book with this short summary. Maybe you’ve read what spiritual gurus have to say about the advantages of meditation and some of its health benefits as well. In his book, Dr. James R. Doty writes about meditation as a medical expert and an experienced meditation practitioner who’s been witnessing the life-changing effects of medication since the age of 12.  His unique experiences have led Dr. Doty to understand that the human heart is more than an organ designed to pump blood; it also has an “intelligence” of its own in the way it communicates with the brain. Meditation can strengthen that connection so that you can always make the best decisions regarding all aspects of your life.  In this summary of Into the Magic Shop by James R. Doty, MD, you’ll learn:
  • how to use meditation to reach your goals;
  • how your brain and heart connect; and
  • why compassionate people will inherit the world.

Into The Magic Shop Key Idea #1: Meditation Calms The Mind, Relaxes The Body, And Brings You Closer To Your Life Goals.

Those who are unfamiliar with meditation can have the misconception that it’s a practice meant to stop your thoughts. The purpose of meditation is not to stop you from thinking, but to free you from intrusive thoughts that take control over you and generate stress.  Mediation is so powerful that it can transform your life and help you become more efficient. This can be achieved through its two main techniques: quieting the mind and relaxing the body. This process begins every time you sit down, either on the floor or in a chair, and start to relax each part of your body, from your toes to the hairs on your scalp. Concentrating on your breathing and slowly inhaling and exhaling helps you stay focused on your body and into the now, without being distracted by your thoughts. Some people find it easier if they focus on an object, such as a candle’s flame, or by repeating a certain mantra.  Mediation takes some time and practice to master, like any other skill. Don’t get discouraged if you need a while before being able to peacefully be in the moment, without engaging with any intrusive thoughts.  Making meditation a regular practice will improve its effectiveness, so in the begging try to do it at least twice a day. In no time, you will start noticing its beneficial effects on your daily life. Eventually, you will reach that point when a disruptive, negative thought will arise and quickly fade away, while you keep your mind calm and clear.  Once you have reached this stage and you have no trouble to remain clear-headed and relaxed, you can start learning about visualization. Visualization is another aspect of mediation which allows you to imagine your ideal future self so that it increases the likelihood of it becoming reality.  This skill will also take practice. In the beginning, picturing your future self can feel like trying to look through a foggy window. The more you try it, the better you will be able to see, until the image is engraved on your brain. The newly achieved clarity will make it feel more real and attainable. 

Into The Magic Shop Key Idea #2: For Meditation To Have A Truly Positive Effect, You Must Open Your Heart.

Although meditation can have life-altering benefits, it works best when you integrate it into a lifestyle built on good intentions. Since meditation makes the mind stronger and helps you focus on achieving your goals, it can be used for both good and bad desires.  For example, if you wish to earn money at the expense of other people or even by harming them, meditation will facilitate your selfish goals into becoming reality. This is the reason why many Wall Street stockbrokers practice the art of meditation. Although their increased focus and tolerance to stress brings them more fortune, their selfish motives are not contributing to making the world a better place.  Bad intentions can easily form if your goals are set only by your mind and not by your heart also.  The author used meditation and visualization for many years with the purpose of becoming a rich, but an unfulfilled doctor.  Dr. James Doty has been meditating since he was 12 years old with the intention of becoming rich, and even if he managed to get his net worth to $75 million, he still didn’t feel satisfied. Eventually, he came to realize his mistake: he didn't involve his heart in the decision-making process.  The fact is that wisdom isn’t just created by the brain. True intelligence and wisdom come not only from the mind but from the heart as well. In the next part, we’ll look into this unique relationship. 

Into The Magic Shop Key Idea #3: The Heart Communicates With The Brain And Can Change The Way It Functions.

The importance of the brain cannot be underestimated since this organ is responsible for keeping the body’s functions in harmony. Nevertheless, it wouldn’t accomplish much without a beating heart.  Although both these organs are essential, research has shown that in fact, the heart sends more information to the brain than vice versa.  Most people can realize that their emotions dictate more of their thinking that the other way around. Meditation is very useful in fixing this imbalance.  Dr. Doty’s managed to generate some skepticism by suggesting that the signals traveling from the heart to the brain are actually the emotions feeding information to our thoughts. Ultimately, as he advocated, intense emotions can cause frantic, intrusive thinking. While rationalizing our emotions can make us feel more at ease, it doesn’t stop us from feeling altogether. The great thing about it is that meditation can alter the communication between our heart and our brain, thus changing the way we feel.  The vagus nerve is one of the most important parts of the autonomic nervous system that connects the heart and mind via the brainstem. The vagus nerve transmits messages to and from the heart when we are faced with a threat. In response to this threat, blood pressure increases. When this happens, the heart signals the brain through the vagus nerve to activate the fight-or-flight response.  Through meditation, we can train ourselves to take control of our breathing in any situation, so our heart rate will not dramatically increase. As a result, no message will be sent to the brain to trigger the fight-or-flight response, so we will remain relaxed. In time, the brain will adopt new patterns of response which will allow us to be calmer and more tranquil in our everyday lives.  In the end, we have more control than we think over the form and function of the brain. By practicing the art of meditation, we can ensure that the brain receives the best message the heart can offer. 

Into The Magic Shop Key Idea #4: Allow Compassion To Dictate Your Decisions And Make Your Life More Rewarding.

Humans are highly sociable beings with a deep-rooted desire to connect to other individuals. Compassion is the foundation of our nature and the driving force that sets in motion our social instincts. Moreover, compassion can also affect our decision-making process, whether those decisions are born from rational thinking or an emotional response.  We believe compassion is connected to emotions, although we can also think of it as the motivational force behind investigative work in medicine or science.  By keeping their emotions out of the operating room, surgeons are trained to stay calm and focused to prevent medical errors. However, this doesn’t prevent physicians such as Dr. Doty from feeling compassion while they operate. The author can still feel an immense desire to help, even when he is supposed to be cold and analytical so that he doesn't lose focus.  Through meditation, you can also become more compassionate, as this practice will encourage you to open your heart to the natural desire to bond with others. Of course, it is possible to meditate without opening your heart, but this will cause an unpleasant experience as you will tend to over-analyze yourself. Meditation is much more pleasant when you keep an open heart, as your brain will connect with your natural desire to relate to others and show compassion.  Neuroscience brings further evidence to support our innate inclinations towards compassion: when someone gives a gift, their pleasure center is more active than the one of the person receiving it.  Although keeping an open heart can indeed make us vulnerable to the negative parts of the world, the risk is worth taking. Living a life filled with the joy relationships bring is far more rewarding than closing off your heart to the world.  In the next part, we’ll explore some of the very practical benefits of compassion.

Into The Magic Shop Key Idea #5: It Is Better And Healthier To Show Compassion For Others.

You’ve probably heard the saying “nice guys finish last,”, but a more realistic statement would be “compassionate people are the last ones standing.” Many people tend to base their decisions on the saying “survival of the fittest,” using it as an excuse to be selfish and ruthless. However, our survival as a species throughout history is based on compassion. The reason why homo sapiens thrived over the years was not due to isolation or egocentric behavior, but because we have a tendency towards forming communities and being social. It’s not hard to acknowledge that people who are part of a group or community live longer on average.  Another misconception is that “survival of the fittest” means putting yourself through hours of intense labor and stress. This high amount of stress can put you at risk for cardiovascular disease. It’s just another way of setting your body into a constant fight-or-flight mode, one of the main causes of cardiac arrest. A relaxed body that isn’t under constant stress is the best weapon you have to fight cardiovascular disease. The path to achieving this state is through meditation, visualization, and compassion.  This magical combination is unstoppable, so it is plausible that the author came to this realization by walking into a magic shop at the age of 12.  The woman working there could tell that he was a troubled boy, so she shared with him the secrets of quieting the mind, relaxing the body and visualizing goals - while keeping an open, compassionate heart. The little boy later found out that these elementary principles are a magical combination that can open any door.  It's time for you to learn this magic and pass it further to someone else. If everyone taught this practice to at least another person, endless harmony and peace could be achieved. 

Into The Magic Shop Key Idea #6: How To Meditate.

Now that we’ve learned a lot about the benefits of meditation, it’s time to learn how to meditate. To meditate successfully, you must pass through four stages: freeing the tension from the body, gaining control over your mind, permitting your heart to open, and establishing a clear intention for your practice. Before you start, keep in mind that there is no point to try mediation if you are tired, in a state of stress, or under the influence of any substances.  The first step is to sit somewhere where you feel comfortable and know that you won’t be interrupted. Then, try to relax.  Next, think of what your intention is  – something that you want to accomplish in your personal or professional life. With that in mind, relax your body by inhaling deeply through your nose and exhaling through your mouth three times. After, imagine you are looking from outside at yourself and slowly begin to relax the muscles in your feet and toes. Gradually move on to relaxing your entire body. If you feel so relaxed that you start falling asleep, don’t be angry with yourself! It can take some practice to be able to maintain a wakeful state of deep relaxation. After you have relaxed your entire body up to your facial muscles and even scalp, proceed to imagine how your heart muscles relax as you breathe.  During this process, it’s only natural for the mind to wonder. As you are trying to relax, thoughts might constantly pop up. If they do, try not to dwell on them, instead let them gently slide away while you bring the focus back to your body. Once a state complete body relaxation is achieved and your thoughts are still, you can think about someone you love and invite them in your mind. Enjoy the feeling of warmth that comes from someone who has unconditionally loved you. Now, call to mind someone whom you have a more complicated relationship with. Try to open your heart to them, see yourself in them and bathe them with your warmth.  If you can still maintain the meditative state, clear your mind once again and call to mind your intention. Imagine yourself achieving it and add as much detail to the picture as possible. Allow yourself to feel the emotions that come with that great sense of accomplishment. If you spend 10 to 30 minutes per day with your intention, you will see that the picture becomes clearer every time.  After you have finished meditating, slowly open your eyes and just sit for a few minutes present and free of thoughts. This will help ease yourself back into the world. Allow the experiences you’ve had to resonate with you. 

In Review: Into The Magic Shop Book Summary

The key message in this book: By practicing meditation, we can allow ourselves to be more compassionate and learn how to think with our hearts and not only with our minds. This can have great benefits, leading to a calmer, healthier life, but also to a more fulfilling existence for ourselves and for others, making the world a better place. Suggested further reading: Find more great ideas like those contained in this summary in this article we wrote on Life purpose