I’ve been doing the latest 21-day meditation challenge from Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra about desire and destiny. The meditation on the sixth day was on resilience and what challenges in life really mean. This made me think of the New Age mantra “it’s all good,” which I’ve frankly always found annoying. But there is a core message in it about life that goes beyond just the fact that everything is a learning experience. It tells us something about our relationship to the Universe.

Look, It Ain’t All Good!

I have a neighbor who I used to attend dream classes with. She’s a New Agey type. Whenever there was some challenge in her life, she’d say, “It’s all good.” Now, I understood what she was trying to say, that all life is a learning experience and therefore it’s all good. But it still irritated me.

I felt like she was trying to say that there was no negativity in the world. The pain people suffer doesn’t matter because “it’s all good.” Hell, if it’s all good then we should rejoice in our grief. We should be happy with the pain we experience because “it’s all good.”

I’m not advocating negativity, though. I see no use in negativity. But there’s a really important part of dealing with pain that “it’s all good” ignores and that’s validation. Believe me when I tell you that nothing is worse for your pain than to invalidate it. I learned that the hard way, from hanging onto the pain of my abusive past for 38 years.


In another 21-day meditation, this time from Max Simon, he talked about always taking responsibility for whatever goes wrong. His point wasn’t that it’s always your fault. He just meant that when things go wrong, focus on making them right yourself rather than looking to others to do it, even if those others are to blame.

Sometimes when things go wrong, it’s truly because of something someone else did, in whole or in part. People are interconnected, and what someone else does has an effect on you (and vice-versa!). I don’t think it’s wrong to want that person to take responsibility for what they did. It’s part of our innate sense of justice. But it’s not always going to happen, and even if it does, it never entirely makes our bad feelings go away.

So I have a suggestion. When things go wrong in your life and someone else is partially or wholly responsible, don’t try to tell yourself that blaming that person is wrong or isn’t going to get you anywhere. Instead, acknowledge that you’ve been hurt by someone else’s actions. It’s OK to acknowledge it as long as it’s true.

After the sting of being hurt has dulled, ask yourself How can I fix this? Or if it’s not possible to fix the situation, ask yourself How can I move on? Blame is ugly, but it’s part of what we really feel when we know someone else is responsible for hurting us. Rather than try to rise above it and deny its existence, validate it and let it go.

It’s not all good. Abuse is not good. Illness is not good. Loss is not good. Heartbreak is not good. War is not good. These things just exist. We can accept them and hate them at the same time. I think it’s too much to ask that we embrace abuse, illness, loss, etc., as a “good” experience, no matter how much they teach us.

The galaxy from NASA observatories.

NASA’s Great Observatories satellites examine the Galactic Center region. Credit: NASA, ESA, SSC, CXC, and STScI. In the public domain.

The Flow of the Universe

So I understand the concept of learning from challenges. I’ll be the first to admit that we learn the most from our most painful experiences. We grow the most from them because we’re forced to re-examine the world and ourselves. We’re forced to question all that we’ve been taught, believe, need, want, and have done.

But I think just looking at challenges in life as learning experiences doesn’t go far enough into ourselves. Some challenges leave us with a feeling of failure, like we’re the ones who screwed everything up. Some challenges leave us angry at the world because there’s no one to blame and we wish there was. Some challenges leave us angry at others because their destructive behaviors sucked us in.

A potent point that Deepak Chopra made in the meditation was that it’s easy to feel like we’re in tune with the Universe when everything goes right. In other words, it’s easy to feel at one with Spirit when our actions bring about the desired results or the world appears kind to us. But when things go wrong, we feel like we’re out of whack with the Universe and we’ve lost the connection with Spirit.

This is an illusion. Even when things go wrong, we’re in harmony with the Universe. That’s the real meaning of “it’s all good.” Growth is the nature of existence. Whatever bad thing it was, whether it could have been prevented or not, needed to happen. As Chopra states in the meditation:

[F]rom the soul’s perspective, there is no such thing as success or failure. There is only the present moment, which is filled with infinite possibilities.

When you make a bad choice, it’s like the Universe is saying, “OK, this is where you need to go right now.” If you’d made a better choice, the Universe would say the same thing: “OK, this is where you need to go right now.” Growth can happen on path A or path B. One may be more pleasant than the other, but both lead to the same destination–growth.

However, responsibility still exists because we still need to make the best choices we can make for ourselves and others we influence. In other words, we still have a responsibility not to keep making ourselves or others miserable. The Universe flows but we can control whether it flows easily or with difficulty based on our choices. Which we have to accept will never be perfect.

We’re allowed to say something sucks. This is not negativity; it’s validation. But once we’ve validated that something sucks, we can settle down to feeling the flow of the Universe again. It may feel like it’s slow as molasses or it’s in fits and starts, but that has more to do with our expectations and wishes than with what’s really happening.