Thursday, May 18, 2017

Do Thoughts Create Our Reality?

I have said many times that I “live in the question.” In doing so, I have discovered that living in the question often elicits more questions than answers. I have recently been pondering one of Unity’s primary tenets. I have been questioning whether our thoughts actually create our reality. I decided to take a risk and share some of my current thoughts and insights on the question. I wholeheartedly welcome your feedback and comments. I trust our shared wisdom.

Most of us are familiar with the popular adage that says “Change your thinking; change your life.” As far as I can discern this phrase was first introduced by author and self-development trainer, Brian Tracy, in the book by the same name. Popular self-help author and motivational speaker, Dr. Wayne Dyer, later capitalized on the idea in his best-selling book, Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life. Subsequently, other speakers and authors, like Pastors Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen, have popularized this teaching in the more mainstream conservative religious movement. Of course the idea did not begin with any of them. The belief in the power of our thoughts dates back centuries and forms the foundation for the New Thought movement of which Unity is a part.

In fact, one of Unity’s five basic principles is “We create our life experiences through our way of thinking.” This is how it is stated on the website. In her book, The Five Principles, author Reverend Ellen Debenport restates this principle as, “Human beings create their experiences by the activity of their thinking. Everything in the manifest realm has its beginning in thought.”

When I first began my journey with New Thought I believed this to be an empowering teaching. I accepted it as Truth and worked with this principle in hopes that I would have everything in life I wanted once I mastered the ability to control my thoughts. And, I admit that I have experienced what I believed were “results” of focusing my thoughts and feelings on the things and experiences I desired.

Lately, however, I have been questioning the soundness of this teaching. I realize that this flies in the face of a foundational teaching of the New Thought movement, but I am just no longer comfortable embracing and continuing to teach it because…

  •        It can be empowering to those of us who are born into a certain level of prosperity and privilege, because we are given opportunities to thrive and prosper; opportunities that many others do not enjoy. Telling someone born into poverty or into a society in which they are dehumanized that they create their experience according to their way of thinking is not only disempowering, but also extremely unkind.
  •        Suggesting that someone created a physical illness through their way of thinking can stimulate a great deal of pain and guilt for them, and their loved ones. Again, it is not compassionate or kind. And, is it really true?
  •        Most of us don’t have control over our thoughts. Yes, we all have the potential to control our thoughts, but most of us, I dare say the majority of us, have not mastered control of our minds. In fact, if we could observe the thinking that goes in our minds on a minute-by-minute basis, we would recognize that thoughts arise without any effort on our part, and we remain unaware of most of them.
  •         If our thoughts create our reality, which thoughts out of the millions – conscious and subconcious – would that be? Again, if we could record just one day of our thoughts and review them, I believe we would readily see that our ordinary thinking has little to do with how the external world is shaped. Rather, the majority of our thinking is actually nothing more than commentary on what is already happening in the external world.
  •         The majority of the thinking that occurs in our minds centers around who we think we are and what we think about who we think we are. Further, who we think we are and how we judge who we are greatly influences how we view others and the world around us and determines our reactions. Our reactions to our thinking, what we say and do, creates our experience, and resonates that in energy from and through us, more than anything else.
I recently discovered support for my questioning from my favorite Unity author, Eric Butterworth. In this book, In the Flow of Life, he refers to the process of attempting to control one’s thoughts as “mental programming.” He suggests that it is arrogance to believe that we are responsible for our physical wellbeing or the state of our finances. He also asserts that we cannot control our experience by engaging in “mental programming.”

He states that there is only one Source of all our healing, success and overcoming. That Source is God, or what he calls “the universal flow” Further, Butterworth, posits that…

“Thought of itself does not create [emphasis mine]. It either places us consciously in the universal flow or it frustrates the flow. If we think sickness or lack, we do not manufacture those things. When the thought is out of synchronization with the flow of life, then, even as anything cut off from its source, we “come to know want.”

Mr. Butterworth supports my current understanding that our thinking does not create our experience, but it can serve to align our consciousness with the all prevailing Good of the universal flow. Conversely, our thinking can also restrict the flow thus causing us to act in ways that do not serve our highest good.

While it may not actually create our external reality, our thinking does affect our internal experience which in turn impacts what we experience externally, but our thinking does not actually create or control reality.

I hold that “The Flow of Life” to which Rev. Butterworth refers is the flow of Divine Love in, through and as all creation. Therefore, for us to be in sync with the flow, our thoughts must embody the frequency of Love. When our thoughts do not resonate with Love, we are frustrating the flow, and not experiencing the fullness of the Life that is eternally expressing through us.

We can know when we are in the flow of Love by engaging in practices of self-connection. I suggest we take time during each day, even if just a minute or two, and follow these steps:

  • Breathe consciously and deeply.
  • Invite yourself to become aware of the body.
  • First, simply notice the feeling of the clothing against your skin, or your feet against the floor.
  • Next, scan your body and notice any tension or discomfort.
  • Without judgment, breathe into those areas and gently release as you exhale.
  • Continuing, invite yourself to become consciously aware of your emotions. Remember that emotions are “energy in motion.” By becoming aware of them, you are sensing the flow of energy. Do not attempt to change them or control them. For now, just notice them.
  • Now, notice your thoughts, again without judgment. Like emotions, thoughts are energy, they are neither good nor bad; they just are.
  • Sense the feeling nature of your thoughts. Are they resonating with Love? This is discernment, not judgment.
  • If the feeling nature is not love, breathe deeply into your heart space, bring to mind an image of something or someone that easily stimulates thoughts and feelings of love.
  • Now, surrender your mind to the energy of love in the heart, and allow love to transmute your thoughts.
  • As love becomes your predominate vibration, you move into “The Flow of Life” and become an emanation of love, thus an attractor of love.

As Rev. Butterworth stated, our thoughts do not create our reality; they either open us to the flow or frustrate the flow of Life as us. We participate in creating our desired external experiences by become consciously aware of our thoughts and feelings and taking steps to adjust them when they are not in alignment with Love. It is a simple concept, but it is not always easy and certainly not, for most of us, instantaneous. It is a process – a process that begins with increasing our level of self-awareness – moment by moment.

We have the power to choose our thoughts. Let us use it wisely.

Join us on Sunday for our 10:00 service as we welcome author, thought leader and contemplative activist, Brandan Robertson, as our guest speaker. You may read more about Brandan on his website –


  1. I appreciate your thoughtful, compassionate exploration of this principle.

  2. Wow...let me catch my breathe for a second...I'm gonna reread this one and be right back!

    Well Rev, another home run. This is my new favorite post that you have ever had. You have managed to confound a contrarian. I didn't once find myself thinking, "Yeah". You and Rev. Butterworth seem to be onto something incredibly prescient.

    If I understand what you're saying, you don't think, meditate, pray on and live like you're rich, then you'll come into a nice inheritance or find a bank error in your favor. A single thought is only one thought in several thousand thoughts we each have daily; one of trillions happening right now in the universe. If we think that we are the only ones thinking thoughts, we have another think coming. The thought you are having right now is one of trillions of thoughts being experienced in the universe, maybe trillions of trillions; and that's just right now. The thoughts will continue to build on each other. If reality is a compilation of all those thoughts, no one's life is going to work out how they want, when they want, where they want, every time. It is the compilation of all the thoughts in the Universe that creates our reality and causes stuff to happen to us. The closer to home the thought, the more the effect will be. That means we should think good thoughts, do good deeds, be nice already. Is that what you're saying?

    We may not be able to plan and have those plans work out every time, but we can control how we react. The more we are in the frequency of Rev. Butterworth's Love, the better the flow will carry us along the river of life. Who could ask for more?

    I can talk some of the talk but walking the walk is confounding me. Thanks Rev for another home run of a message.

  3. Oh Yes!! This message resonates completely for me and I especially love the meditation. I truly believe "to love another person is to see the face of God" from the Les Miserables song. Thank you for being my inspirational teacher along life's journey.

  4. Your insights always offer me an opportunity to stop and reflect. In gratitude

  5. Dear David,
    Thank you for this clarification. I have always rejected the "blame the victim" thinking that says if you are sick or poor, it is your fault because you have a poor consciousness or your wrong thinking.
    I agree with you that the burden of guilt is overwhelming for many people including myself!

  6. I've been frustrated with my supposedly good thoughts not manifesting what I'm hoping for. Will you spend some time during a few Sunday services addressing this topic?