“Don’t use that word!” a friend, who I hadn’t seen in months, reflexively snapped back.

“If you say ‘debt’,” she continued, “The Universe hears it and gives exactly that back to you.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” I somewhat-snarkily acknowledged, “I should really call it my ‘resourceful use of available credit that enabled me to make investments in my business and maintain the lifestyle that I have, even during a temporary downturn in income last year.`”

“How’s that?” I quipped with a smile, “Better?”

My push back against this all-too-familiar sounding New Ageism stems from a bit of “woowoo fatigue” from my 7ish years in the world of yoga, and what has felt like my having heard every angle of every perspective on ideas like manifestation and the Law of Attraction, which while well-intentioned, tend to get quite oversimplified in everyday conversations.

But really, all that my friend was suggesting during our interchange was, Don’t say debt, or you’ll keep attracting it.

Sure. Maybe.

But also, maybe not.

On the one hand, I do understand and fully believe that the stories that we tell — comprised of the words that we choose — make up the narrative fabric of our entire lives. In that sense, our stories dictate our realities.

On the other hand, is it really realistic to think that the Universe listens and responds to each and every word that we use when we use them?

I mean, does the Universe speak every human language?

Does the Universe interpret nuances of each language, too, like sarcasm, facetiousness, and turns-of-phrase? Does the Universe get snark and sass? Does the Universe account for how language naturally “moves” or evolves over time?

If I say, “I’m chill,” will the Universe send a shiver down my spine, or make me feel colder, or bring on a sudden snowstorm?

If I use a word from another language that I don’t speak — like the German word for credit card debt, schuld, which apparently also means guilt — will I attract more of the “resourceful use of credit” that I described to my friend about making investments during a short dry spell in my business last year?

Would the Universe translate the word, know exactly to what I was referring, and then impose both more debt and more feelings of guilt based on the translation of schuld from German to English?!

Okay, okay. I’ll stop.

I know, I’m just being sassy now.

My point here is not to make fun of ideas like the Law of Attraction or manifestation, or anyone who subscribes to them (even to a really, really literal degree).

After all, I believe that the words we use literally do create our psychological and emotional interpretation of just about everything.

Our words are not just invisible, audible descriptors that dissipate upon speaking them. They aren’t meaningless. Words ingrain ideas. Our psyches interpret, understand, and comprise everything through language — even single word choices.

In Shamanic traditions, it’s believed that the words we speak and stories we tell recreate reality as we speak them. Reality is made anew by the stories we tell, right now, according to some ancient traditions.

On a more scientific level, today we understand that words evoke very fast psychological and emotional responses, which means that our words literally create immediate physical effects by way of chemical reactions in our brains and all throughout our bodies.

So, at the very least, ideas like the Law of Attraction and manifestation are based on these overlapping understandings that words really do matter.

My quip here, though, about just how good a “translator” the Universe is, is to say that the Universe is probably not manifesting every single literal word that we use, when we use it, just on the merit of having used it.

While I love the idea proposed by shamanic traditions that the words we speak recreate our entire world anew upon speaking them, when taken to the extreme, that equation sounds equally poetic and promising as it does dangerous and foreboding — has anyone else been listening to the “worlds” that people have been trying to “recreate upon speaking,” lately?

(For better or for worse, reality shouldn’t be instantly reformed based alone upon one person’s saying so.)

If there is a higher power or consciousness governing our Universe — and, if it has some way, ability, or manner of listening to us — I have to believe that the Universe is smarter than giving back to us exactly what we say in our native language, literally, instantly, like a spiritual Venmo (or Apple Pay, you choose).

If the Universe does listen to us, I have to believe that it is listening to more than our word choices.

I believe that the consciousness in our Universe is, instead, listening to the underlying sentiment, the true intention, or the feeling and emotion of the language that we use — regardless of what language we’re actually speaking.

If using a word like “debt” makes you feel “guilty,” as the German translation of schuld implies, then indeed you may attract more of those unwanted feelings guilt, shame, despair, and perhaps actual literal debt — if only because the story of the sentiment that you are continually expressing is what is leading you to inhabit the felt-experiences of guilt, lack, and deficit.

If you use a word like “chill” to describe feelings of ease, openness, freedom, receptivity, responsiveness, resourcefulness, or contentment, then you are probably going to attract more of those desirable responses and situations over time — because, at the very least, you’re continuing to inhabit those very feeling states.

Yes, the words we use do matter.

They make up the narrative fabric of our lives, and define large swaths of how we experience life and connect with people and come to make our many daily choices and decisions.

But I wouldn’t stress too much about each and every word you choose, as if the Universe is listening so closely that it will automatically return each and every literally word that you use, post haste.


I’d focus on the sentiment that you’re expressing — the truth of the emotion; the genuine story of the experience that you are describing, even if it takes some scraping of the proverbial barrel to get to the bottom of what you want your words to actually express.

Because if the Universe speaks any language, it probably speaks the language of true and authentic feeling.

And maybe Sanskrit.

But probably not German.

(Only kidding, my friends.)