New class puts students at ease

As a senior communication major, Tim Eibl knows how to communicate with others, but it wasn’t until he took the “Mindful Communication” course at Mercyhurst that he learned to communicate with himself.

It is not in every class that students begin with 10 minutes of silent meditation.

“Mindful communication” is not an average college course. Instead of the stress and anxiety many students associate with college classes, “Mindful Communication” offers students an outlet to relax and be present. photo: Students find ways to communicate with themselves and practice meditation in a new communication photo: Students find ways to communicate with themselves and practice meditation in a new communication class.
“Mindfulness is being aware, centered and concentrated,” said Eibl, who plans to either enter the workforce or join the military after graduation. “It allows me to be aware of what’s making me stressed and come to terms with it. It slows things down and makes everything manageable.”

Eibl uses breath breaks to re-center himself in stressful situations. In an increasingly distracted world, simple mindful techniques can help students slow down and consciously manage their lives.

“If they can do something as simple as focus on their breath, they can start to make a change in their reaction to any situation,” said instructor Brian Sheridan. “You don’t need a fancy uniform or a special building– you always have your breath— it’s that simple.”

Sheridan, a communication instructor with an interest in martial arts and Buddhism, designed the course to help students from all majors learn about and improve themselves. And unlike many college courses, failure is an option.

“That’s why we call it practice. ‘I didn’t get it right today, but maybe tomorrow I can get it right,’” said Sheridan. “With mindfulness, we know that it’s OK.”

According to Sheridan, mindfulness practices have been adopted by medical schools, veterans’ hospitals and Fortune 500 companies. No matter the industry, research shows mindfulness has its advantages.

“Benefits can be better stress management, better interpersonal relationships, more creative thinking and leading a less distracted life,” Sheridan said.

For Eibl, learning mindfulness is worth a shot and it starts with listening.

“When you take the time to slow down and be mindful, you actually get a sense of what your body and mind are telling you,” said Eibl. “Sometimes our bodies and our minds tell us things but we don’t take the time to listen.”

In today’s world, Eibl said, “we never really think about communicating with ourselves.”

Sheridan hopes the class will be available next year if student interest is high.