Let me paraphrase the above quote the way I understand it.
I do not feel that it is necessary to know exactly who I was in previous lives. I could have been Shakespeare, Julius Cesar, Joan of Arc or a father, a mother, a poet, a prostitute, a lesbian actress or a gay actor. What do I care? My soul experienced episodes in previous lives and it has to move forward to learn more and to become someone that I was not in the beginning.
If not for an afterlife experience during my first childbirth, I would not be able to understand and discuss the above quote in-depth. Here is a poem I wrote which documented that life-changing event in my present life:
I saw life, after death
It was tranquil above the turbulence below
There were no angels or demons nor saints or gods
My first journey to the labyrinth of motherhood
Paved the way to the afterlife
In the middle of the night, the waves of muscle contractions within me became a savage monster who pinched, squeezed, stabbed my abdomen and pounded my back muscles and spine
My mouth opened and lips stretched as I lay on the hospital bed
The white sheet spilled with flowing Ruby River
While I felt the stings of shots from the local anesthetic drug
My nerves calmed down, and there I saw and felt
A limbo of colorless thoughts
Floating in calm waves
Of air, water, and dirt
I woke up and felt serene and light
And without a trace of pain,
I yearned for home, to be with my love
Quickly, I stepped out of bed and left the room
My feet were off the ground; I glided along the corridors
Feeling light as a feather
I moved swiftly through the hospital hallways
Above all the people walking in and out of the hospital
I had no cares in the world; I simply wanted to go home
There I was, in the blink of a thought
Inside apartment 104 where I lived for countless days and nights
With my husband’s incalculable temper and his callous mother’s whimpers
Here my soul was, at the dining table
With my husband and his mother, unseen and floating above them
They sat face-to-face while devouring spiced adobo
Together with brown rice
The clinking of forks and spoons got louder
As they traded sharp words
To my mother-in-law, I was venom
A woman she loathed, she cursed my name
All about me, the conversation was
Exchanges of words punctuated with hate and love
I heard… but felt nothing
I was numbed, yet I could see clearly while I float
Crinkled noses, curled lips, and eyebrows lowered and drawn together
I saw… but felt nothing
I was in another dimension without time, until
I came back to where my body was
on the hospital bed.
I felt a touch and then opened my eyes
My eyebrows raised and curved as I stared at the woman in white
She smiled and whispered, “You came back… we are happy for you!”
“Your baby girl is well, you will see her tomorrow
And surely, your husband, too”
I smiled—in cloud nine, I was; my heart humming a love tune
My mouth parted and teeth exposed as I thanked
All the gentle faces in white uniforms
My teacher, that afterlife experience, unfolded before me the mystery of life and death that changed my thoughts, perspectives, attitudes, and my life as a spiritual being on a human journey. It instilled in my heart and mind the wisdom to know that there is life after death, thus death is not the end, and birth is not the beginning.
In the experience, I saw my organic body while I floated above; the living essence within released itself from the body to live on, to float in a timeless continuum. I saw my husband and mother-in-law and heard their conversations, but all the words I heard meant nothing. My soul felt nothing, and therefore could not learn.
The soul has to inhabit the physical realm with its limitations and difficulties. The presence of powerful emotions such as spiritual human feelings, taste, hearing, smell, making choices, experiencing and learning the ebb and flow, the gains and losses of the physical journey.
As an integral part of a greater whole, or the divine, the universe or God, the soul has a mission to learn on a continuum of births and deaths, until the soul evolves and becomes one with the whole.
The living human body is a perfect temple for learning, because the mind and heart have a special relationship to experience powerful emotions and learn. Emotion is the core of learning for the soul to grow in consciousness and gradually progress through different stages of consciousness.
Positive emotions when intertwined with negative emotions or vice versa could teach powerful learning lessons for spiritual humans. The feelings of hate, annoyance, and distrust could create in its own time positive emotions such as joy, gratitude, serenity, hope, kindness, cheerfulness, enthusiasm and admiration.
Years back, I was disgusted and annoyed at my mother-in-law because I experienced and felt her hatred. However, that negative emotion became gratitude, kindness, and empathy when she took good care of my firstborn while I was at work and in graduate school. Through soul searching, I was able to tap into her own human body and thoughts, so that I realized that it was honest and natural for her to experience jealousy and hatred and to express them to me.
The magnificent life-changing revelation comes when the human mind, the body, the heart and soul think and breathe in unison to bring about knowledge, understanding, spiritual awareness and awakening.
What then is the purpose of my soul, that eternal, spiritual fragment of the divine to learn through my human emotions and experiences? I believe the soul within me is just like any other exploring souls within every human being. Human life lessons create learning and wisdom for the soul in its journey towards perfection and unity with the perfect greater whole. In its quest for learning, the soul seeks new human personalities, new human life episodes, and new human emotional experiences; until that spiritual fragment became one with the Divine.
Hence, you are me and I am you. They are us and we are they. I am an integral part of a greater whole, and so are you and them.