Shannon Harvey: “The Connection” | Talks at Google

Shannon Harvey: “The Connection” | Talks at Google

MARIO: Welcome, everybody. Welcome to the screen
of the documentary film “The Connection.” And my name is
Mario [? Adetta. ?] I’m part of People Development. I’m part of the Well-Being
team in People Development. I’m also in the
core team of gPause. We are honored to have
today with us the filmmaker, the director of the film “The
Connection,” Shannon Harvey, who came all the way
from Sydney, Australia. She’s a journalist, filmmaker. And she’s going to
introduce her film herself. Welcome to Google, Shannon. SHANNON HARVEY: Thank you. [APPLAUSE] It is a real buzz to
be here at Google HQ. We talk about it as a
legendary place in Australia. And it’s absolutely incredible
to be walking around campus. I even saw somebody
on a skateboard with a laptop, which was
perfect, when I first arrived. But to be talking to a room
with people who are setting the agenda for a digital
future that I cannot even begin to imagine is very humbling. And I’m very honored to be here. So thank you very much. I’ve spent the last few years
meeting and interviewing some of the world’s leading
experts in meditation, in mindfulness, and
in mind-body medicine. And I’ve often heard them quote
from a German philosopher who lived in the 1800’s named
Arthur Schopenhauer. And in fact, I’ve based my talk
on Arthur Schopenhauer’s quote. But unfortunately, as
I went through my notes to do my references yesterday,
which is something that’s very important to do, as a
former journalist, I Googled. And I discovered that
there is some conjecture as to whether Arthur
Schopenhauer actually said the quote. So thank you, Google. [LAUGHS] I’ve also discovered, though,
that many wise people have said something rather
similar– people like William James, Arthur
C. Clarke, Elbert Hubbard. And they’ve said
many similar things. So the quote that I will
be basing my talk today on is being attributed
to the internet. The internet once said
that, “Every truth passes through three stages
before it is recognized. In the first, it is ridiculed. In the second, it is opposed. And in the third, it is
regarded as self-evident.” And I’m using this quote to
talk about the acceptance of the mind-body connection. I spent the last
few years looking at how some of the
latest research from leading institutions,
like Harvard and Stanford, shows that the state
of someone’s mind can significantly alter
the quality of their life. It sounds revolutionary, I know. Who would have thought? But this science is also showing
that the state of your mind can influence things such
as your body’s ability to ward off
infection or a virus. And it can even influence the
outcome of a chronic illness. In fact, the very cutting
edge of this research shows that your
mind can actually influence your body to a
cellular level, to your DNA, and, in fact, influence
the DNA that you pass on to your children and
your children’s children. And it may even influence
how long you live. I want you all,
just for a moment, to imagine walking into your
doctor’s room feeling tired and run down, and being given
a diagnosis of chronic fatigue, and telling your doctor
that you’re self-prescribing an eight-week meditation course. You would be laughed
at and you would be told to go back to your
commune in California. It is my personal mission
to take our understanding of the truth of the
mind-body connection from the first and second stage
of being ridiculed and opposed into the third stage of being
regarded as self-evident. And like all good
projects of passion, my enthusiasm is personal. This is a photograph
that I hate looking at. This is a photograph
of me a few years after I had been diagnosed
with an autoimmune disease. I walked into a doctor’s
room at the age of 24, and I was told that he
suspected I had lupus. Lupus is an autoimmune disease
where your immune system starts attacking your perfectly
normal, healthy tissue. The doctor told me
that he suspected that I may have trouble
having children. He told me that if the
disease progressed, it could end up
attacking my organs. And he told me that I may
end up in a wheelchair before I turn 30. It was pretty devastating. I was a journalist. I had just landed my dream job
at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation as a radio
and news journalist. And in that moment,
everything came crashing down. Unfortunately, the thing
about being diagnosed with a chronic illness
is that there’s actually nothing exceptional about it. In fact, according to the
World Health Organization, there’s more than
a one in two chance you will be diagnosed
with a chronic illness. And by that, I’m talking
about cancer, diabetes, heart disease, chronic
migraines, chronic back pain, chronic fatigue, Crohn’s
disease, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis–
the list goes on. And it actually gets worse,
because one in four Americans will have two or more
chronic health conditions. The cost of this global
burden of disease is predicted to soar to
$47 trillion by 2030. No wonder the World
Health Organization has labeled this as
an impending disaster. And the UN Secretary
General, Ban Ki-moon, describes the rising chronic
illness as a global epidemic. So there I was,
just another person saddled with a lifelong
chronic illness. But being a journalist,
I also had a deep desire to search for answers. Over a number of years, I spent
$30,000 on drugs and surgeries, on alternative therapies, as
well as mainstream therapies, but I was still sick. One day, on yet
another Google search, I came across a
document that had been written for
medical students by an Australian MD
named Craig Hassed. I didn’t realize it at the
time, but this document was about to change my life. It was called, “Mind-Body
Medicine– Science, Practice and Philosophy.” And it explained how, in
the last 5 to 10 years, the advances in technology have
allowed us to look at the ways things like the brain and the
immune system can interact in order to affect our health. It was a document
that was summarizing peer-reviewed,
academic research. This was evidence-based
mind-body medicine, and it was designed to target
medical students so they could apply it to their own practice. It explored
research, such as how the immune systems
of medical students became profoundly
suppressed before or just after an exam period. But if they were taught
relaxation techniques, they showed significantly
better immune function and less illness during exams. It looked at how merely
seeing your doctor coming at you to take
your blood pressure could make your
blood pressure rise. And as a result, a
quarter of people are being misdiagnosed
with hypertension. It looked at how a chronic
or long-term activation of your stress response, your
fight or flight response, leads to what’s called
allostatic load, which is associated with type
2 diabetes, obesity, hypertension, atrophy of the
nerve cells in your brain. Stress is bad for you. Who would have thought? But before I elaborate
a little bit further, there is something that I want
to clarify and make very, very clear. The research and my
film is not saying that mental wellness is more
important than nutrition, than exercise, than drugs,
and surgeries, and the wonders of modern medicine. But it is saying that
the state of your mind is extremely important. Dr. Hassed’s document led me
to the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn. And some of you who have done
the Search Inside Yourself program here at
Google would know that this has been an
influence on the program. Dr. Kabat-Zinn has been
instrumental in introducing stress reduction and meditation
into a medical setting. And he initially
found that people who meditated while receiving
light therapy to treat psoriasis healed four
times faster than people who were non-meditators. I also came across the
work of Dr. Dean Ornish from the University
of California, whose mind-body
programs have proven that people with heart
disease and prostate cancer can actually be
treated, sometimes without drugs or surgery. In some cases, his
program has been able to slow the progression
of these illnesses or even reverse them. In fact, he recently joined
with a major health insurer here in the US. And surprise, surprise, they
found that the participants had significantly
improved health outcomes. But when the insurer looked
at the dollars and cents of the program, it reported
cutting their customer’s health care costs by half
in the first year. Dr. Ornish’s program
includes stress management through yoga and
meditation, a healthy diet, moderate exercise,
and social support. These are not expensive things. So I started applying some
of the research findings that I was reading
about to my own life. And over a number of years, I
developed a regular meditation and yoga practice. I changed my perception
of my work stress. I learned about
balancing my emotions. And I moved much closer to
my family and my friends. I started feeling
more and more well. And despite my
original prognosis, I am very happy to say that I am
the proud mother of a baby boy. And recently, just
a few weeks ago, I had a routine blood
test that showed no sign of autoimmune
disease in my body. Although our doctors and our
health practitioners mean well, most people like me,
with a chronic illness, are being offered little more
than a bill, a prescription for drugs or surgery,
and another appointment. But I’m living proof of the
power of mind-body medicine, and I am far from unique. In my film, which
you’re about to see, you will see the
stories of other people who have, in one way or another,
had their health affected by the state of their mind. You will see the story
of Dr. Craig Duncan. He’s a leading sports
scientist in Australia who is responsible for the
health and the well-being of our late footballers. He was a vegetarian, and he
was as fit as the athletes that he trains. But he had a heart attack during
an extremely stressful time in his life. As he says in the
film, “It doesn’t matter how healthy your
body is if your mind isn’t in some sort of balance.” You’ll also see the story of
Professor George Jelinek, who is a leading Australian
medical doctor. To give you an idea of
this man’s credentials, he has written the medical
textbooks for emergency medicine and is the
inaugural editor of a major medical
journal that specializes in emergency medicine. His story is perhaps the
most compelling of them all. And he’s my personal hero,
because he has not only recovered from
multiple sclerosis, but he’s also developed
a program that is seeing many other people
recover from multiple sclerosis as well. This is an illness that
traditional medicine has no cure for. And yet, often, when these
people tell their stories, they are met with cynicism, and
they are met with opposition. Mind-body medicine
is sadly considered California hippie juju. Doctors weren’t taught it
in medical school years ago. Therefore, they say
it doesn’t work. 20 years ago, the notion
that group support would improve the outcome
for women with breast cancer was considered ridiculous. But Dr. David Spiegel from
Stanford is proving just that. 10 years ago, if someone
had said that meditation can flip the switch on genes
affecting disease, which has now been proven to
be true by Dr. Herbert Benson from Harvard, they would
have been violently opposed. Even to this day, when
I talk about the latest research coming
from institutions all over the world, looking
at the ritual of medicine and how the interaction
between a patient and a doctor can significantly alter the
way a sick person’s body reacts to an illness, I am met
with skepticism, opposition, and sometimes outrage. The science has shown us
that things like meditation, mindfulness, emotional
intelligence, and stress reduction make us happier,
healthier, stronger, and smarter. These things help
you think better. They help you sleep
better and live better. And they cost nothing at all. If this was a drug, everyone in
the world would be taking it. So if we come back to our famous
quote from the great internet, it seems that despite
the overwhelming evidence about the power of the
mind-body connection, we are not yet in
the third stage. The truth is sometimes
ridiculed, sometimes opposed, and rarely seen as self-evident. And this is why I
made “The Connection.” This is a film
for people who are well and who want to stay well. This is a film for
people who are sick and who are searching
for answers. This is a film I wish my
doctor had have handed me when I first got sick. I hope that, after
you’ve seen it, you might feel as passionate
as I do about taking us into the third stage
of realizing the truth. Or even better, that the
stages we travel through are more like those that
the philosopher William James proposed. “First, a new theory
is attacked as absurd. Then it is admitted to be true,
but obvious and insignificant. And finally, it is
seen to be so important that even its adversaries
claim that they themselves discovered it.” So without further ado, I hope
you enjoy “The Connection.” [APPLAUSE] AUDIENCE: Hi. Well, first of all,
thank you very much. I loved the film. If we would like a
copy of it, is there some sort of way– I don’t know
if this was mentioned earlier– for us to get it? Will it be released
online in some format? SHANNON HARVEY: Mm-hm. It’s available online
at our website, which is, as
download stream and DVD. AUDIENCE: Thank you very much. I think it’s in
order of confirmation from personal experiences. And I find it very beautiful
how you put it all together in such a convincing
way that I just can’t wait to share this with
anyone, including family. So a very practical question. In which language
is it available? And is there any
way we could help in making it available
in more languages? SHANNON HARVEY: Yes, please. We’d love more help. It’s available, I
think– I’ll just check with Jules over there. It’s available in five languages
at the moment, with subtitles, obviously. So Italian, and Portuguese,
French, German, and Spanish. Yeah. Yeah. AUDIENCE: That’s wonderful. SHANNON HARVEY: Yeah. AUDIENCE: In the
movie, it’s actually mentioned that when you
practice meditation– SHANNON HARVEY: Uh-huh. AUDIENCE: –and the body is
like a response mechanism. It slows down, like maybe
your metabolism goes down, everything goes down. And when you do cardio,
like you work out, then your metabolism increases. Therefore, all those
signals increases, right? But we also know that
working out or doing cardio is also beneficial. But that is
[? quantitatively ?] right? So how do you explain that? What do think about that? Some stress are
good for the body, and some stress are
bad for the body. And, like, my personal
belief is that this physical intense– like,
physical workout that we do, it’s part of that
good stress which prepares our body for
next level of thinking. Or like, basically, suppose if
I am worried about something, if I’m able to
handle that better, then my mind is
prepared for that. And now I can move on to
the next level of challenge, which my mind can [INAUDIBLE]. SHANNON HARVEY: Mm-hm. So first of all, I’m not a
doctor and I’m not a scientist. But it’s a question that,
if you want to follow up in exact detail, I can put you
in touch with some people who can help you explain it
at the metabolic level. But to speak generally
about it, my understanding is that there’s good
stress and there’s bad stress, particularly
allostatic load, which is the chronic
overload of stress. And I know, from
my own experience, my autoimmune disease was
triggered by allostatic load. It had been constant stress. It was the constant deadlines
of being a journalist. But on top of that, I
was the sort of person who would take on the emotional
problems of other people that I couldn’t fix. And that was contributing to
an emotional kind of stress in my body. And as Dr. Hassed talks
about in the film, there’s this constant
wear and tear of the body, the constant
release of these stress chemicals, like cortisol. They slowly, slowly
start impacting your body in a detrimental way. Now, what’s really
important to know is that we’ve evolved
to have the stress response as a good thing. It’s supposed to save our lives. We’re supposed to be able
to run away from the tiger that’s chasing us, or
the elephant stampede, or whatever it is. It’s supposed to
give us more energy, and it’s supposed to allow our
blood to heal wounds faster. But when our body is constantly
activating this response, it’s shutting down
other vital systems, like your digestion, which
means that it’s not digesting nutrients in the
best possible way. The question that you
mentioned, as well, about cardio being a good
thing, exercise is good. We know that. That’s unquestionable. We should all be
exercising, but it depends how you’re exercising. I practiced yoga
for years in a way where I was treating
it as just a workout. I was doing power yoga
classes, where I was just joining to get my
heart rate going and build some muscle strength. And I realized
after a while that I was getting to
these yoga classes– and I knew the moves
so well that I’d write an entire creative brief
for my production company in my head in the
hour and a half that I was there for
my yoga practice. And I wasn’t present, and
I wasn’t in the moment, and I wasn’t practicing
a moving meditation. And so I guess what
I’m trying to say is that there’s good
exercise and there’s bad exercise, in the
same way that there’s good stress and bad stress. But yeah, if you’re
interested in knowing more about the metabolic
side of things, then that might be something
to talk about afterwards. Yeah. Yeah. AUDIENCE: Hi, Shannon. It sounds like this has
opened up so much for you, so much that you had
never imagined before. I’m curious, what are you
most interested in now? SHANNON HARVEY: That’s
a really good question. I’m fascinated in how we can
get this into a wider setting. Having just read
[? Meng’s ?] book, fascinated by the way that,
slowly, this is actually penetrating into
the corporate world. And I think that is
where we will actually start seeing a massive shift. I am also fascinated in
the way the world around us impacts our health–
so the environments that we put ourselves in,
the way that our world is– sometimes, to me,
it seems like it’s designed to make
us sick– hospital environments, for example. And Dr. Esther
Sternberg, who’s one of the experts in the film,
who is actually considered to be one of the 100 most
influential female scientists for her discovery about the
connection between the brain and the immune system,
she’s started looking now about how the world around
us affects our health. And I find that
absolutely fascinating. I mean, I feel like I’ve
just dipped my toes in this. And every single day,
there is new science being published, particularly
in the neuroscience world. And it’s gobsmacking. It’s absolutely gobsmacking. Yeah. AUDIENCE: Hi. I really enjoyed the movie. And this is maybe
not necessarily a question but sort
of a consideration. I was wondering the whole
time, how does this mindfulness and being well aware
of what we eat, how we act, how we
go about our days, how does that fit into
the consumer’s culture that we are constantly
bombarded with? And another part of
that consideration is placebo health does not make
money for drug companies, which are very heavily
invested in keeping us, to a certain extent,
sick, as well. So I was wondering if
you have any thoughts on any of those issues. SHANNON HARVEY: Yeah. Well, I’ve got two comments. It does seem like the world
is against us, that it’s designed to get our stress
response constantly going. And also, it seems like in
some corporate environments, it’s almost as if, if
you’re not a stress head, and if you’re not working
12-, 15-hour days, then there’s something wrong
with you and you’re not giving enough. But to add to the comment
about the placebo and the fact that you can’t
really sell placebo, interestingly, when I was doing
the scripting for the film, I came across a website saying, or something like that. And they’re selling
placebo pills and using the science
behind placebo as the platform from
which to sell the pills. So you can make money out
of placebo, apparently. [LAUGHTER] AUDIENCE: In your
film, you stress the importance of a community. And I recently moved
from Colorado out here. And what I’m finding
is it’s really hard to find that kind of community
to sustain mind-body healing. Is there any network that
practitioners are actually saying, I believe
in this, and this is a practice that
I would support? Because that’s astoundingly
absent in my search here. SHANNON HARVEY: Yeah. The power of community
and the power of being in a
supportive community is absolutely essential. And for me, it was one of
the biggest breakthroughs, personally. When I first got
sick, I look back and I realize that I’d actually
set myself up perfectly to get sick, because I was in
this extremely stressful job, but I was also working
really long hours. And I was living really far
away from my family and friends. And text messaging
and email was my way of communicating with them. And I wasn’t actually
being with those people. In terms of networks
and finding networks, I think that we all need to
find our own communities. We need to tap into
them in some way. I think meditation
communities, they’re around. I think particularly the
mindfulness-based stress reduction community
is very strong. And they really understand
the community side of meditation practice. Mindfulness-based
stress reduction was originally developed
by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who is one of the experts
who appeared in the film and who’s influenced the Search
Inside Yourself program here. I mean, he really
has fundamentally changed the way we look
at meditation in the West. But that’s got a huge network. They’ve got over
20,000 practitioners now all around the
world, who are teaching these eight-week
courses in meditation. And from those
courses come really strong communities, so I’d
really highly recommend looking into that. But in addition to
that, I’ve recently written a blog post about the
power of community support within niches. So all the footage that you saw
in the film of the cute, little babies, that was
my mother’s group that I joined
after I had my son. My son’s 20 months old now. He’s turning two in April. And I’m still really close
with this network of women. And even though we’re all
really different people, we’re actually all
united by the fact that we’ve been through
something very intense, which is being the mother
of a newborn baby. And that has sort of
brought us together. And we will be together
for a very, very long time. And we’ll see each
other’s children grow up. And there’s something
really magic about that. And the other comment
I’d make about that is that it’s really
easy to tell ourselves that we don’t have time. You know, I find that
sometimes, particularly if I’ve had a really big week
at work and I’m exhausted– and our mothers group meets on
a Thursday night once a month. And I tell myself that I’m
too tired to get dressed up, and I’m too tired to get
out there and see them. And I’ll see them
next month anyway. But I make myself go, and I
have never regretted going. And I think that if you do find
some kind of community that becomes your people, you will
never regret seeing them. MARIO: We have a community
around mindfulness at Google. SHANNON HARVEY: Oh, great. MARIO: And it’s called
gPause, G-P-A-U-S-E. AUDIENCE: Thanks
for that question. [LAUGHTER] MARIO: And we just
get together around mindfulness practices,
mindful lunches. And it’s there for
everybody to join. AUDIENCE: And if you can’t
remember the [INAUDIBLE], just grab one of these
bracelets on the way out. MARIO: Yeah. I have a question. I would like you to comment on
how has the film been received. Tell us a little bit about
where it’s been showed and what kind of– yeah. SHANNON HARVEY: OK. So the first thing is that this
is an independent film, which means that my husband and
I financed it ourselves. So we don’t have a
big studio behind us, and we don’t have a lot of
money that’s driving it. But we released the
film independently, which meant that we did
a tour around Australia, and around the
US, and in the UK, where we showed it to a lot of
people through wellness groups and through chronic
illness groups. It was just so well-received. It was so humbling. In fact, at our US premiere,
which was in Massachusetts, just outside of Boston, we
had a panel discussion where– on the panel was, obviously,
myself, Jon Kabat-Zinn from the film, a
neuroscientist, a pediatrician. And also, we had the CEO of
Massachusetts General Hospital and a health care group
that’s responsible for 60% of the health care in the
state of Massachusetts. And his name’s Dr. Eric Dickson. And his response was incredible. He stated that he wanted
to make it compulsory viewing for first-year
medical students. Then he decided he’d add
fourth-year medical students as well. So they go to it at the
beginning and at the end. And then he added that he was
going to make his residents and his doctors
and all the people involved in his
health care see it. So that was such an
amazing response. And I know, particularly
for the people who are from the mindfulness-based
stress reduction clinic there in Massachusetts, it
was a big moment for them, because they felt like
finally, the medical world and their world was
coming together. So that’s been really good. And we’ve got a
program, which we call Host Your Own
Screening of the Film, and this is one of them. And so we’ve got people all
over the world who are now screening the film
and organizing their own screenings, which
is really, really cool. MARIO: Well, thank you again,
on behalf of everybody, to making the film. [APPLAUSE] Thank you for being here. Thank you, everybody,
for joining us. And I also want to thank
Kathleen and [? Van ?] from gPause to
making this possible, and your help on the camera
on making of this work. And yeah. I don’t know if
you will be around in case somebody
wants to approach you. Thank you so much, and
have a great evening. SHANNON HARVEY: Thank you. [APPLAUSE]


  • Hussain Fahmy حسين فحمي says:

    Practising Muslims meditate / pray five times a day and they have a built in system of dealing with emotional bad stress through supplicating to the Creator of the Universe, Allah (swt)

  • Christine Malm says:

    Shannon Harvey you are a true Inspiration xx Thank you

  • Corpus Mentis says:

    Really unfortunate John Sarno was not featured in this movie, he is the King of Mindbody

  • Patrick Jeffrey says:

    A great organization that offers meditation groups and training across the U.S.

  • savedfaves says:

    I'd bet money the few voting this down haven't studied the research. The unscientific, as it were. The 'I know this isn't true', group. Fundamentalists.

  • liora schneider says:

    What you have gone through and what you have done to heal yourself is amazing!!! making a film about this is such an important project!!! I am buying the dvd right now!

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