Yoga Journal

Straight from the Heart

As a child, James Doty believed the world wasn’t a very kind place. He spent the summer before eighth grade riding his orange Schwinn Sting-Ray bicycle around his hometown of Lancaster, California. He’d saved his money from mowing lawns to buy the freedom to fiercely pedal away from the turbulent apartment he shared with his parents and brother.

His dad was struggling with alcohol addiction and frequently took off for days to weeks at a time, sometimes leaving the family without enough money for food. His mom was chronically depressed and rarely left her bed. When his dad was home, his parents argued constantly, leaving his mom in tears. Doty’s older brother was scrawny and bullied, which meant Doty got into a lot of fights in an effort to defend him. “I felt a lot of anger, despair, and shame,” Doty says. “I never knew what was going to happen next. Worse, I felt like somehow I deserved the situation I was in.”

Then that summer, Doty met a woman who changed everything. She worked at a magic shop that he’d wandered into without any money. The woman behind the counter, Ruth, was so kind and warm that when she started asking Doty questions about his life, he answered truthfully. “This was rare for me, since I carried so much shame and fear of judgment,”

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