This month's post features a Q&A with Sarah Harmon, mother of 2 girls, therapist, yoga & mindfulness teacher and founder of The School of MOM. Sarah and I met over 10 years ago in Yoga Teacher Training and recently reconnected. The work she is doing helping moms find mindfulness and self compassion is so wonderful and so important. I asked if she could share more in the newsletter, and she agreed! I am very grateful to Sarah for taking the time to answer my questions so thoughtfully and excited for you to learn more about The School of MOM. Stay tuned for an upcoming free masterclass on: 3 Key Ingredients for Guilt-free Self-care (that are never talked about!), Wed, April 7, 7:45 pm OR Thurs, April 8, 1 pm. Here is the link to the masterclass:
Q- Can you tell us about yourself and your background?
SH- Hello! My name is Sarah Harmon and I'm a Boston-based therapist and yoga and mindfulness teacher. I have 2 girls - Libby (4) and Sage (2).
Before moving back to the East Coast to complete my Yoga teacher training and start grad school, I spent my post-college years living in San Diego (working at Active.com) and New Zealand (working for Ironman New Zealand).
Q- What led you to study yoga and mindfulness and to become a therapist?
SH- I knew from my first psychology class in my first semester of college that psychology was for me! I was FASCINATED and loved every single subject I took. My introduction to yoga came via a dear friend I studied abroad with in Melbourne, Australia. At the time, I was struggling with some post-knee surgery issues and she dragged me to a bikram yoga class. I was instantly hooked and knew that at some stage I would integrate psychology and yoga in my career.
Q- What inspired you to create The School of Mom?
SH- The School of MOM has been brewing for almost a decade. It was birthed (pun intended!) out of my personal experience as a mother and its intersection with my professional experience in my therapy practice and yoga classes, working with moms.
About a decade ago, personal issues with my own Mother pushed me into the deep end of struggles. I knew many of my clients and friends were experiencing these challenges too…
- High expectations
- Self-criticism and
- Endlessly seeking approval
...they showed up everywhere. And support and affirmation from my own Mother wasn’t only hard to come by, it was unavailable.
Through my own mindfulness practice, therapy and training… I realized that it was possible to find peace and learn how to mother myself in a way that I so desperately craved outside of myself. And after guiding and teaching my clients to do the same, I knew that there was a bigger need to create a community and resource around this work… and so The School of MOM was born!
Q- What is The School of Mom?
SH- It was launched on Mother’s Day of 2020 so it’s less than a year old (which I can’t believe!!!) and is evolving and growing as we speak. Currently, there is an 8 week Mothering Oneself Mindfully (https://www.theschoolofmom.com/) program that involves a mindfulness course, group coaching, live self-care/yoga/mindfulness classes and community support. Graduates of the program are invited into a private membership called The Circle of MOM so they can continue to learn and get professional support on their mindfulness and self-compassion journey.
I am also about to launch a new offering to support new moms and veteran moms who are interested in bringing the practice of mindfulness into their pregnancy and birth. AND (did I mention there is a lot of growth and evolution happening!?) there is also a new offering coming down the track for moms who are interested in mindful parenting and want some accessible practices to bring into their daily lives with their kiddos.
Q- How did concerns that moms have changed from pre-pandemic to living in the pandemic?
SH-The three main concerns affecting moms right now that immediately come to mind are self-doubt/judgment, worry/anxiety and overall exhaustion and overwhelm.
There is so much self-judgment and self-doubt in motherhood on a “good day” and isolation/living in a global pandemic only makes these voices in our minds louder. And on top of all this incredibly loud and unhelpful inner self-critical dialogue, there has been a whole lot of fear and anxiety this past year as moms navigate health risks and unknowns and endless decision making. And lastly, to say that moms are tired right now is an understatement. We know that for many women, the pandemic has accentuated unequal distribution of labor at home. Women are taking more and more on, without the support and help that they might usually have access to. Exhaustion and burnout is a serious concern for moms right now.
Q- What are some of the concerns that you hear most consistently from your clients?
SH- The majority of the women I work with in my practice struggle with anxiety, self-doubt and INCREDIBLY high expectations of themselves. It’s become very apparent in my work with women that we are critical and down-right mean to ourselves in a way we would never be to those around us - even strangers!
Q- Can you give us some best practices when it comes to leading a more mindful life?
SH- The definition I use for mindfulness is present-moment awareness with curiosity, discernment, acceptance and kindness. And the truth is… mindfulness is a life-long practice. As with any new skill, I recommend finding a teacher you trust that can guide and support you. I also recommend finding a community to share the journey of practicing mindfulness with as it is not meant to be practiced in isolation. So overall - education, professional support and regular practice is a great way to lead a more mindful life.
For all the reasons above - I created the School of MOM! I am here to guide and support women, as well as to provide them with an amazing community of like-minded women who are seeking self-awareness and presence in their lives.
Q- What are the best ways to teach our children to be mindful and present?
SH- By example! The line I use in The School of MOM is; “Be the human you want to raise.” If you want to raise a mindful, kind, resilient kid… you need to first be that human. This can be hard to hear, but the truth is that we need to do our own work first before we can teach and model it to our kids. Does this mean that we can’t raise kind kids if we aren’t actively practicing self-kindness? No, of course not…. But if you’re asking what the best way is to teach our children, research (and personal/professional experience) tells us that it is in fact about first being the human we want to raise.
Q- How do you practice mindfulness in your own life?
SH- Ahhh, this has been an evolving journey for me, especially as I’ve become a mom! In mindfulness we talk about 2 types of practice - dedicated and integrated. Dedicated is the more formal seated mindfulness meditation practice. Personally I set a timer and practice something called vipassana meditation. This means focusing on my breath and body, and noticing when/where my attention goes when it wanders - and it wanders a LOT.
Before kids, it was a whole lot easier to find time to meditate. Now that my kids are 2 and 4, and I’m slowly crawling out of the baby weeds, I have a goal of 2 - 20 min of meditation a day. Some weeks - it’s a whole lot of 2 min meditations, and that’s ok! Self-compassion has been key for my meditation practice over the past 4 years since it doesn’t always look or feel like I ideally want it to.
Every time you notice that your mind has wandered (which it will because you’re human) - that is mindfulness! In that moment of noticing, you can gently invite your attention back to the present moment by shifting focus to your breath and body.
Integrated practice is bringing the practice of mindfulness into your everyday life. This means being present with curiosity and non-judgment when you are doing everything you normally do from showering to driving. While it’s hard to be present all the time, this is really where the rubber hits the road in mindfulness practice. For my students, I recommend choosing 1 - 2 activities that you already do and bringing a mindful presence to them. Ie. when you’re showering. Just shower. Be 100% present with your mind and body…. Notice the temperature of the water. Notice your thoughts wander and come back to your senses and breath.
Q- What are your future hopes for The School of Mom?
SH- It gives me chills to think about what the world will be like when women and moms are kinder to themselves. My hopes for The School of MOM is really about my hopes for the women who are in my community. I hope that they can mother themselves in a present, discerning, accepting and self-compassionate way. I hope that they can see how amazing they are and that they are worth their own time and attention!
And the good news is… I am not hoping any more. I’m witnessing incredible and empowering shifts in the women I’ve been privileged to teach and get to know in The School of MOM.
So my bigger hope and intention is that this community grows and evolves… because that would mean that more and more women are prioritizing themselves and learning how to take care of themselves first!
If you’re interested in learning more, check me out on Instagram at: @the.schoolofmom
And sign up for updates/my newsletter at www.theschoolofmom.com
Also feel free to reach out: firstname.lastname@example.org