Asteya translates to “non-stealing” (or to me, to live with integrity). It is more than just the obvious, though.
My initial reaction to the third Yama was, “Okay, do not steal.” My perspective was stemming from the Ten Commandments. I was brought up Catholic, so this was something I knew by heart. Don’t steal someone else’s possessions, money, or “anything” that doesn’t belong to you.
After two decades of being raised in this understanding, yoga shed some light on this concept and allowed me to take a much deeper look. I came to understand what my childhood teachers were teaching. Somewhere along the way, the translation was lost of this sacred truth.
For yogis, the concept of stealing goes much deeper than the tangible.
In essence, it should for everyone, and I believe that the tangible is the lesser of it all. Asteya asks us: Do we control? Do we manipulate? These are all forms of the ego acting out, and in the end, we are stealing from the people we engage in these behaviors with. We are stealing their opportunities, stealing their creativity, stealing their potential.
Can you let someone speak, tell their story and explain? Or do you constantly have to make it about you and have your part in the conversation? It usually sounds something like this:
FRIEND 1: “I just had the most amazing time with my family in Florida”.
FRIEND 2: “Oh, last year my family and I went there and did this and that and this and we when here and this is what happened”
Squashing their story and time to speak with dialogue that was never asked for. In this case, the friend is stealing their time, their need to be heard and instead, they have made it about them. The next time you have a conversation with someone, just listen. Try to not make the responses about you – it is hard, but now you are more conscious and aware!
Are you the forklift or the bulldozer?
When in conversation with people or even in thought, are you lifting people up or crushing them down? This is not something meant to get you down in the dumps, but rather bring to your attention to how impactful our words can be. We may not even realize when we are knocking our closest friends and family down. So think forklift instead of bulldozer! And know that you will be more likely to attract more forklifts rather than bulldozers into your circle of friends.
How is your relationship with the Earth?
We are spirits having a human experience here on Earth. That being said, nothing is really ours. It’s simply on loan for this time that we have here. I spent time in Thailand twice as a teen on mission trips. There I had the opportunity and privilege to spend time in the village of Musukee in the foothills of the Himalayas. Thai people live very simply. They take only what they need and share everything.
What was even more profound was their relationship with Mother Earth. Walking the beautiful land just outside the village, you would look up and see the horizon. Lit by the sunset, many trees cut down, a clustering of new trees growing and one single tree much taller and larger than the rest. That one tree was a reminder to the people of the history of the land. It reminds them of how much they have been through. It gives them a symbol to show their gratitude for what and how much the Earth has given them. It is a reminder of their ancestors and how much they sacrificed, and a reminder of what they should be doing for future generations.
This concept I still carry with me, simply giving back to the Earth, as the Earth, too, is on loan to us in this human experience.
How much do you use the words “mine,” “my,” “I,” and can you stop this lingo?
We often get a sense of pride to say, “This is my house”, “My fancy new cell phone or clothes”, “My wonderful kids”, or “My great idea.” Are these things really ours? Or are they opportunities in this lifetime, and at any moment these gifts can be taken away? What I am trying to point out is it should be a celebration not a comparison of yours to theirs. We should be celebrating those things and people in a sense of comradery versus ownership.
Finally, are you stealing from yourself?
Are you stealing from your own uniqueness? Are you too worried about the conflict of others, what others will think? Here, you steal your own unique outlook and damper it with concepts you don’t even know to be true (and usually they are not). You are living in something other than the now, and anything other than the now is simply not real.
Who are you in three words: 1._____________ 2._____________ 3._____________
Now does this coincide with how you believe other people reference you? If not, why so?
When do we start to want what others want?
As a baby and toddler, we are so strong in what we need and we never bat an eye to other people’s ideas, ways or values. Somewhere along the way, we begin to accept other values as our own.
As a mom, this is one of the most important things for my kids. It is 24/7 awareness I must bring to the table. I must be constantly aware of what I say to them, what I ask them to do and to really listen to what they are saying. I’ve worked with kids for over 15 years, and what I have found is that kids know what they want and who they are better than any adult. We can learn a lot from them if we listen and follow in their footsteps.
So can you get excited about your life rather than trying to live someone else lives? Or live like you believe someone else wants you to live? When we do this, we steal from the other person. Most importantly, we steal our time, our experiences, and our own personal journey.
So are you available for your own life or too busy trying to live someone else’s?
In this very moment, what do you want to share with the world? Why aren’t you sharing these gifts right now?
By not sharing these gifts you are stealing joy from your own life and potential joys and experiences from those around you.
Know that life is not punishing you but rather teaching you.
Life offers you a great opportunity to grow and expand. Don’t steal this wonderful opportunity from yourself and then steal the hopes and dreams of someone else. You are in the driver’s seat, so start to enjoy the view.
This blog is an adaptation of a piece I originally wrote for MindBodyGreen: Are You Living Your Life or Someone Else’s? Updated 9/19/19.