09/05/2014 12:02 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Mindfulness, My Parents and the Connections That Matter

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1973 with my parents...such a happy time

Is it just me, or does everyone try to find a "meaning" for why and how things happen?

My parents both passed away on the 30th of the month; my dad in August, 2007, and my mom in December, 2011. I not only connected the number 30, but also the 7-11. (And I don't even think I own that company's stock!)

When my dad passed, I was so sad to lose him, but glad he was no longer suffering. When my mom passed and the funeral brought all the children and grandchildren together, I thought, "Yes, I am sad. Yes, I will miss her. But now I know what she had been waiting for. All that time of lingering was for a reason. She wanted us to all be together as we started the new year. She was sending a message that we should all continue to love and care for each other. We should remember that we are a family and, regardless of disagreements and upsets, we should never let anything pull us apart."

I won't say this came easily to us. My siblings and I are our own people with our own needs and beliefs. Yes, we share a religious foundation, and we have always shown our love for each other, but I think it's fair to say we've each followed our life paths as we have seen fit.

For myself, I can say I have been influenced not only by my religious beliefs, but also by my experience with mindfulness. I practice mindfulness in short bursts throughout the day, and also meditate during formal sittings. I try to always be in the present, acknowledging my feelings and thoughts and accepting them without judgment. I believe this helps me remain true to what I know my mother wanted; it also helped me break a bad habit.

I was on a negative spiral for a while there; I ruminated, experienced more than my fair share of negative self-talk, was busy placing blame anyplace I could and constantly thought the worst about anything and everyone. It took effort and time to overcome these patterns that, without my even realizing, had become habits. It was as easy for me to think of something negative as it was for me to brush my teeth; sometimes, it might have even been easier.

Yet once I began practicing mindfulness, my reactions to a chime that was used to indicate the beginning of a meditation session soon bore a striking resemblance to the behaviors associated with Pavlov's dog. Pavlov became famous when his dog started to salivate upon hearing a sound he was trained to associate with food. I, on the other hand, found myself being trained to respond to the mindfulness chime.

No computer. No phone. No music. No interruptions. I know, my entire body knows, that that chime means nothing will be coming my way except peace, quiet, and calm. If a thought tries to intrude on my time, I notice it, and then let it float away without engaging in any associated scenario. My shoulders release stress as they fall into a relaxed state. I can actually feel my jaw slacken, my neck muscles loosen and... I am adrift.

Do my responsibilities disappear? No. Are my problems solved? Again, no.

But somehow, I find time to take care of the items on the day's "to-do" list, and, typically, those chores will be done in a much calmer fashion.

I still miss my parents; that is something I don't think will ever go away. And deep inside, I know they are with me, with us, each and every day. Watching over their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren... and sending us hopes of love, peace and family unity each and every day.

Dr.Wolbe can be contacted via her website at