The Healing Power of Forgiveness

After reliving this amazing bit of personal history in meditation, I began to see my parents in a new light. Instead of thinking about what they didn’t do, I began to think about what they did do!

One day, in the mid 1980s, I sat meditating in my room.

To set this story up, let me return to 1964. Just before being discharged from the Air Force in 1964, I had a strange experience. It was late in the evening and, for some reason, I decided to go outside and lay on the grass between my barracks and the next one. I wanted to be by myself and look up at the stars. As it turned out, it was a defining moment. As I lay on the ground and looked up at the stars, I decided I needed to stop drinking. It had become a nightly ritual for me since joining the Air Force and I knew it was not good for my body or soul. I was terribly shy and inhibited and found that drinking alcohol was the only way I could relax and have fun with people. In that magical moment, I determined that people were just going to have to accept me the way I am. I wasn’t going to drink myself into an early grave just to make them happy!

Little did I know I was in the midst of a revelation! To me, at the time, it was just an amazing moment of clarity. And it didn’t stop there! I started thinking about all the things I wanted to know in life. Who are we? What’s reality? What’s the purpose of life? Just like that, I decided to go back to school, no matter how much I hated it before and no matter how hard it would be. I thought; since I’m a medical technician now, why not take pre-med in college? If I decided at some point that becoming a doctor wasn’t going to work for me, I could switch to something more to my liking. After my discharge from the service, I stayed in California for a while, working as a car salesman. It didn’t suit my temperament or values, so, within a few months, I returned home to Maine to attend school.

I learned Transcendental Meditation (TM) from a fellow student while attending college in 1966. School expenses absorbed my entire education benefit from the military so my wife and I both had to work full time to pay for food and rent. I worked the graveyard shift at a state owned facility for the care and training of people with mental and physical disabilities in Pownal, Maine. Besides working five days a week, I took between fifteen and seventeen units a semester in a pre-med curriculum. To get from home to work, to school and back home again, I drove one hundred miles a day. This tough schedule left me stressed out and sleep deprived. I already knew I had high blood pressure; it was discovered just before my discharge from the Air Force in 1964. Somewhere in between my discharge and school, I had read  that TM increased relaxation and lowered blood pressure. So, when I saw an ad for learning TM in the college newspaper, I took advantage of it because I didn’t want to die young and I didn’t want to become dependent on medication. Within months my blood pressure returned to normal. As a result, I’ve continued to practice TM from time to time.

After completing the mantra portion (ten minutes or so) of my meditation, I sat quietly, letting thoughts bubble up to the surface of my mind and disappear. As this process of quiet observation continued, one area of thought began to take center stage. It was my early years and the volatile relationship I had with my mother and stepfather growing up. After I turned seventeen (September 24) in my senior year of high school, I decided I had had enough. In early November, 1959, I quit school and joined the Air Force. During the four years and nine months I spent in the service, I returned home several times on leave. It was always the same. Whenever we had a family gathering, we’d drink. Soon, old wounds would be reopened, which led to family arguments. One time, my stepfather was being so aggressive about making a point with me, I had to hold him back by gripping his shirt. It tore apart in my hands. We just didn’t know how to deal with anger  in a constructive way.

After reliving this amazing bit of personal history in meditation, I began to see my parents in a new light. Instead of thinking about what they didn’t do, I began to think about what they did do! I realized that despite their own personal life challenges in life, they fed us four boys and kept a roof over our heads. Every year we planted a garden. Dad had a race horse when he married my mother so we went to races and fairs every year. When I turned twelve, dad sold his race horse and bought a neat thirty-foot boat that had been used to run rum and guns up from Cuba, through the Florida Keys. During the summer we cruised on Casco Bay off Portland, fished and had picnics on Basket Island. At home over the years, we had chickens, goats, cats, dogs and even rabbits to share life with. We were able to ice skate, climb trees and walk in the woods alone as kids.

What more could I ask of them, I thought? Suddenly, I realized my parents had done the best they could with what they knew at the time. We were all doing the best we could! In that moment I forgave them and myself for our imagined sins. Then I asked them to forgive me for being angry with them. With that the tension and negativity that had existed between us for all those years, melted away and I realized, there was nothing to forgive. When someone is doing the best they can, what is there to forgive?

Yes, we can do better! However, we need to give ourselves time and room to grow. The demands and expectations of life often keep us way too busy. Because of the insight I gained during this meditation, the  relationship with my parents changed. It was and is no longer guarded and stressful. The power of forgiveness is amazing isn’t it?. It completely changed the way my parents and I related to each other. My challenge now is to find forgiveness within me for all mankind.


Roger A. “Pete” Peterson,

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

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