The book, “Your Soul’s Plan” by Robert Schwartz, formerly titled “Courageous Souls”, is about pre-birth planning, which is said to occur for each of us before we take human embodiment. Our advisors and loved ones get together to help us to plan the major events of our lives, based on the lessons we want to learn, and the gifts of love we want to give others. The events are not cast in stone, and there are alternate paths. It’s a startling concept.
The book tells the story of 10 people: two with a physical illness, a parent of handicapped children, a deaf woman, a blind man, two lives impacted by drug addition, the death of a loved one, and two people who had serious accidents. In each case, the pre-birth planning sessions are explored through interviews, and the use of a medium.
The common thread through these stories, and the part that was the most fascinating to me, is what the author calls “learning through opposites”. From this perspective, we plan the challenges of our lives in order to experience the opposite of the quality we are trying to create within ourselves. For example, the first story is about Jon, a gay man with AIDS. He grows up in a religious community that thinks homosexuality is a sin. He is shamed by his parents, and even has shaming experiences with his gay lovers. Then he contracts the most shamed illness today: AIDS. Jon experiences receiving only conditional love in his early life. After much time and anguish, Jon is able to accept himself fully and find the strength to love himself unconditionally. Through a lack of love in his life, he develops self love.
This concept of learning through opposites is difficult to understand. One of Jon’s guides puts it this way: “Those [souls] who come together to assist one another imbue their personalities and their perceptions of Jon in a way that brings about the obstacles he must overcome in order for this truth to become apparent to him. It is almost like an obstacle race. The more times you come to the same obstacle, the easier it is to catapult yourself over it, crawl under it, or shimmy around it until finally it becomes second nature. When Jon no longer sees himself as less important, less loving, less delightful, less sacred than those around him, the obstacles of this human will fade.”
This book is not about victimhood, it’s about empowerment. It’s the empowerment of taking the chronic challenges we face, and turning them around into a learning and growth experience. By drinking, the alcoholic man experiences being cut off from his spirituality. Being cut off from his spirituality creates a deep yearning, and eventually facilitates him to more fully embrace the depth of his spirituality. Have you ever noticed that reformed alcoholics are some of the most spiritual beings around? I believe that’s no accident.
Like it or not, there is much suffering in the world. How do we explain it? Is it evil? If there is an all powerful God, then why doesn’t God do away with the evil? This book explains the suffering as being part of our growth process; something we chose from a place of freedom. Within the drama of our lives, it is difficult to see and appreciate the spirituality of our own predicament, much less those of others. Reading this book gave me more compassion for those who abuse alcohol (for example), and now try to see it as a spiritual lesson they are giving themselves. But that does not mean I would invite such a person into my inner circle, or allow them to abuse me. It’s not an excuse for bad behavior; it’s a way of transforming negative patterns into spiritual lessons.
As least as important as compassion for others, this book gave me some insight into my own life challenges, and gave me a new empowered way of viewing them. It’s so easy to fall into a victim mentality, and think that I’m being punished by life’s difficulties. But considering the difficulties as something that I chose in order to facilitate my growth puts a completely different light on it. It suggests that the faster and more easily I learn the spiritual lessons, the less I will have to suffer with “learning through opposites”.
I’m considering starting a book discussion using this book. If this sounds interesting to you, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will notify you if there is enough interest.