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Asteya: "Non-stealing"


Today we examine the 3rd Yama in yoga philosophy: Asteya or "Non-stealing".

On the surface, this one may sound simple. The 10-Commandments from the Bible include: "Thou shall not steal" and also "Thall shall not covet thy neighbor's house, wife, or anything that belongs to thy neighbor". But Asteya means much more than that - To explore this yama, we need to look at the root cause of stealing.

Gandhi expanded on the concept of asteya in his 11 vows, stating that ‘mankind’s greed and craving for artificial needs are also stealing’. Physical poverty might cause one to steal, but spiritual poverty, greed, desire, and the feeling we are lacking something can also cause us to "steal" or to simply take more than we need.

Let's look at the concept of "Not coveting what others have" - Most of us have at one time or another witnessed someone gain something they may not seem deserving of - such as a promotion, a cash windfall, the perfect job - perhaps something that we may have been "coveting" ourselves. Perhaps they have "the perfect relationship" while ours is suffering... Instead of being happy for their abundance, we focus on our own lack or insecurity. When I feel that my life is lacking in some way, I try saying a silent prayer of gratitude. Recalling something in my life I am grateful for and telling myself that I am enough and I do not need more than I have.

Cultivating gratitude and abundance takes practice. Try a daily practice of waking up and telling yourself, "I am enough". Write it on a sticky note and post it to your mirror, refrigerator or night table or someplace you will see it everyday. At the beginning and end of each day think of at least one thing for which you are grateful. Write it down. My sister's family has a practice of "grace" before meals where they hold hands and go around the table and each one says something they are grateful for before they share dinner together. Try cultivating gratitude in your life for a week or a month and watch yourself grow in abundance and ease. Asteya also means not stealing from "ourselves". Chances are - if you are feeling envy or lack on hearing of someone else's success, you may also need to examine your own inner dialogue - What are you telling yourself? Are you berating yourself for not achieving more? having more? being more?

The truth is that we ARE all that we need. If you feel dissatisified with some part of your life - career, relationships, finances, free time - Take some time to sit down and make some goals on how to improve that part of your life. Then take concrete steps to do at least one or two things on that list. I recently took a huge leap on my career path and have had the experience at times of feeling like I am not doing enough - that things are moving too slowly - being an overachiever, I am naturally hard on myself when I feel like I fall short. When I took the time to look back at some goals I made for myself at the end of the Yoga Therapy training I took last year - I realized I had already accomplished 3 of the goals I had made. Writing your goals and crossing them off when you achieve them can be inspirational. The other practice that helps me clear my head of negative thoughts - (you can find out more about this in last week's blog post) - is to take a walk in nature. It doesn't take long to look around you and feel gratitude and abundance when you are surrounded by everything you need.


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