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Easy Living, Hand to Mouth: Poverty Mind vs. Faith Mind

This post was originally published at Infinitesimal Significance.


Few people have any next, they live from hand to mouth without a plan, and are always at the end of their line.”  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I recently wrote a Thought of the Day post on my own website:

If you are called to a purpose, trust that you will be given enough to take the next right step. The concept of living “hand to mouth” shifts radically if the Hand is Divine.

It was one of those thoughts that just jumped into my head one morning, though I didn’t immediately fully grasp its meaning. Upon further reflection, it is becoming one of the central points of focus of my current spiritual/magical work.

In the past, “living hand to mouth” was a phrase that filled me with fear. The phrase calls up in me all the scary lessons I have learned about life in this chaotic, unpredictable universe.

Lesson: nothing will be easy.

My earliest memories are of small joys interspersed between anxiety, fighting and sorrow. I grew up in the working poor, and I always remember our family living paycheck to paycheck and being worried about money. One year when I was very small, Christmas dinner and presents were donated to our family by a local church. My mother was simultaneously ashamed and grateful, and from that day forward those two feelings – shame and grace – were always somewhat combined in my head. To have need, to feel gratitude, to give thanks – all of these were tied together in the knot in my stomach.


Life: swinging out over the abyss…


Lesson:  I am responsible. It is all up to me.

As I grew, I had opportunities to make life-altering changes. I remember being told that my good grades were my ticket to a better life, and indeed, I graduated from college (first in my immediate family). I decided to marry, and moved from Chicago to Mississippi; in a few years I divorced and moving to Pennsylvania. I ended up with a Master’s degree and a fair amount of student loan debt.

I made choices; some were advantageous, some less so, but they were my choices. I learned that I had agency, that I could impact my life. I did my best, put my nose to the grindstone and told myself that hard work would transport me to better: a better job, a better relationship, a better life. I told myself I was not running from my past, but instead burning all the paths back to it. I believed I was the only one I could count on, the only one that could save my life. If I could just work hard enough, I would not have need; I would not need grace.

Lesson:  Art Imitates Life

In direct correlation to the above lessons, I spent my early pagan years as a “theoretical magician” – those of you that have read Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell will easily get my meaning, but for those of you who have not:  a simple definition of a “theoretical magician” is one that discusses and studies magic, but one that does not/cannot practice magic. I do not mean that I did not go to rituals or cast spells or celebrate the seasons; I did all of these things, but my practices did not incorporate faith. I engaged in magical practices and saw the psychological and social uses of my work, but my spirituality was a tool and not a state of being.  Magic lived in my head, but not in my heart, and most certainly had not touched my soul. I engaged the gods and at the same time, resolutely refused to trust them with my vulnerability. More skeptic than mystic, I operated much like Missouri, “The Show-Me State.”

But lately, there have been some major revisions revelations.

Revelation:  Art Touches Life

I recently wrote about my experiences with hearing a calling to my Life's Work. This calling came when doing spirit animal work with Fox, who told me that surrender is easy and powerful, and this message has been turning my whole world upside down as of late.  

Accommodating this message assumes that I will live in trust, and depend on the Divine as resolutely as I have depended on logic and hard work in the past. I am making shifts to do the work I am called to do, and I do not know how everything will come to pass. I cannot solve the equation of success this time…and that is ok.  (At least, I tell myself it is ok as my little heart spasms violently, scared to let go of the control that I have always believed has been the only thing between me and the No-Good Very Bad Things in life.)

Revelation:  I am responsible, but it is not all up to me.

Even bigger: I am being asked to give up my tight-fisted grip on a poverty mindset, which requires an intense vulnerability and humility that I wasn’t anticipating. In asking for help and receiving it, I am unwinding shame from need. In praying and trusting that the next right step will present itself, I am unwinding my scrambling and flailing from the grace that is waiting to catch me. There was a phrase I often heard at Diana’s Grove that is appropriate: act with all your heart and leave the outcome to the Gods. 

I am learning to be fully responsible, but only for my piece of the mystery.


Lest things get too serious: a reminder that you may be living “pasta to mouth.”


Revelation:  Everything is easy.

I often think of St. Francis, and his choice to live in poverty as a radical act of faith in a God that provides. For me, this is the key to changing a poverty mindset to a faith mindset –recognizing that living “hand to mouth” is a holy act when you are depending on the Divine.

More and more, I choose to have faith that what I need will be provided. More and more, I choose to surrender to whatever is happening in the present moment.

Here’s the secret:  in choosing to trust, I get to experience ease. In choosing to let go, I get to enjoy the ride.


Bring on that abyss.

Last modified on
I have been working in the Reclaiming and Feri witchcraft traditions since 2000. Originally from Chicago, my home is now Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where I am a piece of a growing coven and work in partnership with Boneweaver in the Bone and Briar line of Reclaiming/Feri. My passions include: the search for Truth and Desire, co-creation and manifestation, ecstatic ritual, poetry, divination and the power of good reading material. I am experienced in leadership training, small group facilitation, tarot, trance techniques, and ritual arts. I believe at the core of my being that transformation can be blissful if we surrender to it. It is my privilege to tempt seekers to their transformations. I specialize in: - Community Building - Magical Training - Officiating Sacred Rites - Ritual Creation (personal and public) - Spiritual Exploration and Mentoring - Tarot and Divination Training Credentials: - Initiated in the Reclaiming (2010) and Feri (2012) traditions
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  • She Who Is
    She Who Is Thursday, 31 October 2013

    Thank you for this incredibly moving and wise gesture towards embracing the unknown in action. I love the "Divine Hand to Mouth" mentality, and of course - you're absolutely right in that. What a difference one word makes in the depth of our understanding.



  • Amoret BriarRose
    Amoret BriarRose Thursday, 31 October 2013

    Thank you!


  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis Friday, 18 April 2014

    I totally get your post. I struggle daily for surrender and to live in paradoxes such as taking responsibility for my life and being surrendered in trust of deity.

    Teaching these dialectics is hard work and not au courant, but after teaching it for decades I know it comes back to me 100fold bc it puts me in god's lap.

    From one seeker to another, I also want to applaud the honesty of your post. Writers who bypass spiritual posturing—"Look how deep I am!"—take a risk but show the real depth, that of facing our very flawed but sacred nature. Thank you for providing a precious moment of camaraderie on the path of life.

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