We have everything we need, right?
Asteya translates to ‘non-stealing’, and is a practice that reminds us we have everything we need. It reminds us that we are abundant and not lacking, and it invites us to cultivate this in true feeling, to cultivate it as a true knowing. It is the third yama, following Ahimsa and Satya.
I love the quote by Gandhi, “Mankind’s greed and craving for artificial needs are also stealing.”
It calls attention to the fact that stealing isn’t only about taking what doesn’t belong to us in a material and physical sense, there are other layers too.
Stealing anything comes from a place of lacking or feeling of scarcity. It comes from a place of not feeling good enough. Whether it’s stealing someone else’s time, intellectual property or ideas, or not carving out enough time to fill your own cup, or subconsciously trying to fill a gap by mindless and impulsive shopping, watching too much TV or scrolling on social media – these are just a few ways that we steal from others and ourselves.
On the mat
Most people who practice yoga in some way or another, have had those moments where our attention is dragged outside of ourselves, whether it’s looking around the room in order to keep up, or even pushing ourselves beyond our limits or compromising the quality of the breath to get into what we think a posture should look like because someone else is doing it.
Our internal monologue can steal our ability to be fully aware and present in our practice, observing our natural capacity in that moment so we can witness the organic and sustainable unravelling of our true nature, which is what arises from a practice that is gentle and honest. We steal our own joy when we try to keep up instead of witnessing and harnessing the peace, kindness and truth of our ever evolving Asana practice.
Also, we all have times when we run late, but those moments when we whizz to yoga then rush back out into our lives are a great opportunity to practice Asteya. When we leave with enough time to just cruise to yoga and through yoga, the peace and calm we cultivate on the mat stays with us when we walk back into the real world where it has a ripple effect on those we come in contact with.
When we rush to yoga and throw down our mat in a class that has already commenced, we will likely rush through the class and potentially steal the peace of another person who is moving through the beginning and centring stages of their practice. These are all subtle ways we can unconsciously be stealing, not only from another, but also from ourselves. Yoga starts long before we step into the classroom and continues long after we roll our mat up and put it away.
Wherever you are, be all there.
Off the mat
Time. As each year goes by we become aware of how quickly time seems to get away. Especially once children are involved, or if we are watching our parents get old, the rate at which they change can be alarming.
Being selective of how we spend our time is so important. This life is short and it’s exhausting if we spend our time doing things that are draining or unfulfilling. Learning how to say no to everything that wasn’t a full-blown yes was one of the best things I have ever done. Saying yes because we feel like we should is not aligned with our truth and can often waste, not just our time, but the time of those involved.
Mindless consuming is another form of stealing. Pulling on the world’s resources, hoarding things we don’t need, buying things we don’t need – it’s hard not to fall into the trap of wanting more. Bigger house, better car, climb the ladder. All that stuff is wonderful, but only if it aligns with what really makes us feel whole. If it doesn’t make us feel whole, perhaps the situation needs reassessing.
Listening is a beautiful form of Asteya. When we listen in a way that is calm, attentive and without putting our attention on what our response is going to be, we have the opportunity to learn something new and create space for processing and reflection, for us and the other. This is key to accessing truth Satya (truth) and also embodying Ahimsa (kindness).
Simple practices of Asteya can be:
- listening without jumping into a conversation to relate or give advice when it isn’t asked for
- turning the tap off between the moments of brushing our teeth to save our precious water
- taking your keep cup for coffee, or refusing the plastic lid that comes with a take out cup, to help heal the global plastic epidemic
- letting another driver’s car merge in front of you to avoid possible frustration that could steal your peace and the peace of the other driver
- supporting local and small business instead of feeding large and unconscious corporations
- doing something that makes you feel good instead of succumbing to habitual patterns that no longer work for you
- being present for your family
- saying no to create space, and saying no to the feeling of ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’, and choosing to say yes only when it feels like a full-bodied yes
- talking directly to any person you have an issue with instead of talking to others about it – whilst practicing Ahimsa and Satya, of course!
Remember, it’s all about awareness. We want to create less stress, not more. Carving out new patterns take time. This practice is a lifelong practice. Asteya is only generous and giving when it embodies Satya (truth) and Ahimsa (kindness).