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Into the Magic Shop


Shinara Hussain, Robyn Sneddon, Shufei Chen & Ethan Horton

With the release of the new BTS album Love Yourself: Tear, came the song entitled ‘Magic Shop’. A track that’s touched the hearts of ARMY around the globe. 

Like most of BTS releases, there’s more to their songs than first appears. Over the years, the group have cited various pieces of literature as inspiration behind some of their biggest hits.  BTS once again turned to the pages of a

gripping inspirational book called ‘Into the Magic Shop’ by James R Doty M.D. Eagle eyed viewers of KBS’s Song Festival last December would have picked up hints about 'Into The Magic Shop' during the introduction of the 'Spring Day' performance; causing ARMY’s to go on a hunt for the novel.

This hint was further solidified when the teaser for Fake Love, released in May, showing each member of BTS entering a Magic Shop and handing over an item in exchange for something else.

The author James R Doty M.D takes his readers on a journey to self-discovery and shares how a chance meeting with a woman named Ruth in a Magic Shop changed the shape of his life’s path. As a professor at Stanford University, and the Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) he has headed many research projects on compassion and altruism, and their association to the brain. 'Into the Magic Shop' is a memoir chronicling his own experiences and pioneering science to reveal how we can transform our lives by changing our brains and our hearts.

Some of the BTS Radio UK team had the privilege of interviewing James R Doty M.D, setting questions that arose whilst reading the book themselves, and would like to thank him for taking the time to answer these regarding the book and it’s powerful message. Perhaps we could all learn a little from the Magic Shop?


Ruth was evidently a huge influence in your life and how it has unfolded, has there been any instances in your adult life where you’ve been able to take what she has taught you and share with someone else? Perhaps this was the initial intention behind writing the book in the first place?

Every day I have the opportunity to share the lessons that Ruth taught me to individuals from around the world as a result of the immense success the book has had being now translated into 33 languages most recently in Romania and soon in Vietnamese, Mainland Chinese and Mongolian.

What stimulated my writing the book was an encounter with a literary agent at Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s 80th birthday party in Cape Town who introduced himself and told me he had been following my work for a number of years and my stories were profoundly moving to him. He felt that by doing a book it would allow those stories to be heard by a larger audience and really multiply the effect. It turns out that he was also Archbishop Tutu’s literary agent.

That relationship with my literary agent resulted in a dialogue between Archbishop Tutu and the Dalai Lama which became The Book of Joy. I’m blessed that my introduction of my agent to His Holiness resulted in the book occurring which they kindly acknowledged in the preface.

What was it about Ruth that really drew you to her? She was a stranger but yet there was something about her that you seemed to resonate with?

Every once in a while we meet someone who has a radiant presence. Someone who smiles at you just to be kind, is non-judgemental and makes one feel safe. It was those characteristics that made her resonate with me. I was a scared 12 year-old who felt isolated and alone.

In the book you spoke of keeping a notebook referring to ‘Ruth’s Magic’ amongst a box of your special possessions. Do you still have this notebook and if so, do you ever refer to it?

Unfortunately, it was destroyed in a flood a number of years ago. That being said, in my mind, I refer to it daily.

Had you met Ruth as an adult, do you think you’d have responded to her teachings in the same way that you did as a child?

It is hard to say. As the adult I am today or as the adult I would have become if I had never met Ruth. I am afraid to imagine where that adult might have ended up.

Ruth set you the task of writing 10 wishes in which you could use her ‘intentions strategy’ to achieve. As a child your wishes included becoming a doctor as well as monetary items such as a Porsche, Rolex watch and money itself. Presumably you will have achieved a number of these wishes since then, but as an adult do you have a different outlook on your childhood wishes? Did achieving them really feel as good as you once imagined or has life’s journey changed the way in which you view success?

Of course, as a child, I remained under the delusion that having “things” would make me happy. Ultimately as an adult with a number of life experiences I realized that having “things” isn’t the key to happiness. Happiness is something that isn’t the result of the outside world but one’s inner world. Ultimately happiness is a choice that comes from within and has nothing to do with “things”. The greatest happiness I have found comes from being of service to others and the recognition that when you are of service to another you are actually serving yourself.

The process you write about relies on an already existing desire to practice and perfect the magic Ruth taught you. What if that isn't already in place? What advice can you give to someone wanting to cultivate that skill within themselves?

Well, the way I learned was as someone who had no background and no desire. It was when I recognised my own degree of suffering and no longer wanted to suffer did I avail myself to Ruth’s teachings. Usually it is through suffering that we learn some of our most valuable lessons in life and often times through our own suffering that we open up to other possibilities.

You’ve said that a person can limit their potential due to a physiological response to constant negativity. How does a person recognise that this is happening to them and how can one prevent responding to such negativity?

One simply has to “listen” to the inner dialogue and ask themselves is it positive or negative most of the time? Is it critical, unkind and demeaning? As I discussed in my book, one has to believe that they are worthy of love and kindness and once you realise that you are and that the experiences you’ve suffered are not all your fault then you can be more kind to yourself.

The book talks about subjects such as meditation, relaxing the body, taming the mind and opening the heart; for someone who finds it difficult to be honest with themselves and accept past moments that once happened to them how would you advise them to open up and admit that not everything is within their control?

See above. One simply has to look around at the experience of themselves and others to know that none of us are in control. The acceptance of this reality and the knowledge that you can, though, practice manifesting your intention helps this sense of loss of control. Also understanding that having an intention doesn’t mean being attached to the outcome. It is attachment that causes many to suffer.

In today's society, do you think that mindfulness techniques should be taught in school environments? Would this be of benefit to young people while making decisions about their future and enable them to cope within their adult lives?

Mindfulness for many offers the ability to live in this modern world and be less stressed, less anxious and more productive and happy. That being said, it is not the only solution or method to achieve the same results. Connection to others, a solid support system, authenticity and compassion can result in the same thing with no mindfulness whatsoever…although practicing those behaviours could be argued to be themselves forms of mindfulness

You spoke of your mother living with depression and having to provide the necessary care and support as a child for not only your mother, but your elder brother also. This must have been quite hard to endure as a child. You evidently felt more comfortable away from your home environment and gave the impression of looking for an escape from the arguments and financial concerns put upon you at such a young age. What would your advice be to anyone who carries similar burdens?

Unfortunately, it happens more often than any of us would like to believe that a child is placed in a situation where he or she is given the responsibility of an adult at a young age. And the scar of that responsibility is imprinted on who they become and affects many of the decisions they make in their life. A child doesn’t understand is that they are not at fault for their situation. So often a child carries guilt, shame and anger regarding the burdens they had to bear. We cannot change our past. What we can change is how we react to our past. When we are able to relieve our burden by forgiving ourselves and understanding it was not our fault, it is then that the darkness changes to light and we can truly become what we were meant to be.

Ever since the South Korean group BTS noted your book as inspiration behind their song ‘Magic Shop’, has there been a change in the type of audience your book would normally receive? If so, what has been the response towards the values and subjects covered?

Obviously, the fact that BTS was inspired by my book to create “Magic Shop”, resulted in their millions of fans around the world to learn about my book. So definitely that is a different audience than probably had read the book. The reality is that my book though touches on topics that every human being experiences which is pain, suffering and loss and demonstrates that within each of us is the power to overcome such experiences, learn from them and by doing so change their lives for the better and just importantly share what they have learned with others. That is the gift of the “Magic Shop”.

The influence of your book and the ’10 wishes’ didn’t just provide inspiration for the song ‘Magic Shop’ it has also inspired BTS in recent promotional activities which saw them create a list of 10 things that have brought them genuine happiness. As a result, this has encouraged fans of all ages and walks of life to evaluate their lives and consider the things that bring them happiness each day. Did you ever imagine that the lessons that Ruth once taught you as a young boy would go on to make such a big impact?

Of course, I’m sure if you asked BTS if they ever thought that they would be a worldwide phenomenon, I’m sure they would say no. What is wonderful though is that through their songs such as “Magic Shop” they are giving to their fans and people around the world a message of hope, of love and the reality that each of us has the capacity to change the world for the better and that often that change is by simply acted towards one person to make their life better.

Within your novel you describe the magic that is the joining of our head and our hearts, and the ways in which they can affect progressing to our ideal future. As an author who has evidently been through a lot, what advice can you offer readers that wanting to aim towards a goal but don’t know where to start?

Many people, especially young people, don’t yet have a passion or a goal. Oftentimes, they beat themselves up and feel inadequate compared to others. The reality is that the most important thing is not to get lost in feeling inadequate but to understand the most important determinant of happiness is accepting yourself, being kind to others, not striving to be what you are not and understanding that when you can love yourself; that allows you to truly love others and it is that reality that will guide you toward understanding of what is your future.

Medical Related Questions

In the book you write about music and how it helps to reduce heart rate, stress and lower blood pressure. What genre of music would you suggest to help reduce these factors? And how important do you feel music is, used not only in operating theatres but in everyday life and the effect it has on people and their daily lives?

From the earliest times, music has been used to allow people to connect with their emotions and their surroundings. Music has changed history. It can calm us, excite us and take us to another place. That is the power of music. What music also can do is to connect you to your subconscious which can change your physiology by lowering your blood pressure, your heart rate and your levels of stress. In some circumstances is can do the opposite. So one must find that music which allows for understanding within oneself our connection to each other, the power of love to change the world and the power of oneself to make the world a better place.

For those of us who don't understand could you explain what neuroplasticity means?

Neuroplasticity is the ability that each of us has to change and strengthen the neural pathways in our brain.

Out of all the alphabets of the heart which do you think is most important?

Love…but compassion is what translates our own pain into love.

We also have a question from one of our followers, Cristina in Houston, Texas @sundaykarryout:

As the author, do you feel like BTS was able to correctly capture the theme of the book within their song ‘Magic Shop’? 

For me the magic shop was a special place that gave me the insight to understand the possibilities that I have within myself and also how the lessons I learned to positively affect others. I think that BTS captured that theme.


There is no doubt that the book is deeply moving and inspiring with many messages conveyed. From the interview, it is safe to say that it is possible that one person can change your life. One person can change the way you act. We thank James R Doty M.D for being able to inspire BTS and for making many people know that they are not alone.

BTS were able to see the message in the book and wanted to be the ones to make a difference in ARMY’s lives, creating this song for ARMY.  We thank BTS for making a change and giving us a ‘Magic Shop’ we can visit when we need to.

Magic Shop by BTS is available on their Love Yourself: Tear album, you can add it to your Spotify playlist at the following link: BTS - Love Yourself: Tear

Everyone has a Magic Shop, you just need to look deep within yourself to find it.

You can follow James Doty on social media:-

Twitter: @jamesrdotymd


James Doty's book 'Into the Magic Shop: A Neurosurgeon's Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart' is available to buy now.

References: Image source for header:  Into the Magic Shop- Compassion and Neuroscience | Yellow Kite Spotify: James R Doty M.D: Twitter: @jamesrdotymd 

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