Question: “How does one achieve self-forgiveness? How does one let go of the weight of past mistakes?”
Your keywords are right there in your question, past mistakes. Emphasis on the past. Something everyone does is to constantly dwell on the past, as if, if we think about it hard enough, if we torture ourselves about it long enough, that somehow that will fix it and make it all better… Well obviously that isn’t helping or working.
So what can we do instead of dwelling? Get over it! Literally, letting it go. Instead of dwelling on how to fix past mistakes, concentrate on learning to not having to do it again in the future. Of course getting over things is easier said than done. But, it’s definitely not impossible.
Two important things to know/practice when trying to “get things go.” 1) Acceptance. We need to accept what already happened, because by now it’s history and unless we’ve invented a time machine, we can’t go back and change the past. So instead, we accept and take responsibility of those mistakes and vow, or at least try, not to make those mistakes again in the future. The sooner we can accept whatever crap we did and get over it, the sooner we can let go of that trash bag we’ve been carrying and move on.
2) Time and patience. The same way we get over a breakup or a loss, we just need some time to heal. So, we take this time and apply our patience and acceptance in our meditation practice to help us through this. Sometimes it takes time to accept and sometimes we need to accept to give us the time.
Forgiving yourself or forgiving others is not about anyone else but yourself. We can tell people we forgive them all we want, but that forgiveness isn’t in their hands. Forgiveness means to let go and having peace of mind. Let’s say a friend or a sibling did something that hurt you and you got really angry with them and refuse to talk to them for however long. You forgiving them probably won’t change the way they feel about you or you about them. The anger that you hold, who is it really hurting? Just yourself! So what does forgiveness do? It allows you to free yourself from that anger and move on, because that anger is surely not doing any good!
Forgive. Forget. Let go.
Smile and be well!