Your Default Setting is Abundance
The third yama (restraint) of the Yoga Sutras is Asteya. It is asking us not to steal. Simple enough, just don’t take other people’s stuff. Right? But you didn’t really expect it to be that easy, did you?
This is a little story about abundance and gratitude. It is less about non-stealing than it is about the lack of desire to take from another.
Let me explain.
Stealing comes in many forms, if I threw a few questions out there I bet you could answer them without even thinking. Let’s play.
Here are a few categories in which one may find themselves purloining from another:
· Energy – how might one steal energy from another?
· Time – in what ways do we steal time from others?
· Joy – is it possible to steal someone’s joy? How?
· Happiness – what are some ways you can rain on someone’s parade?
Did you come up with some good answers?
Let’s unpack a few.
Energy: We deplete the energy of another by complaining, by telling our same tired, worn out story over and over again. We take their energy when we interrupt them, when we don’t listen with the intention of hearing, but instead of what we’re going to say, creating a desire to jump in and share what we know.
Time: This is a biggie. Chronic tardiness is the number one way we steal time from another. Always running late puts a huge strain on relationships and is often the cause of fractured friendships. Making someone wait tells them that your time is more important than theirs. We steal time when we don’t keep our promises. We steal time from others by, once again, complaining and retelling the same sad story. We take precious minutes away gossiping about others.
Joy and Happiness: While it’s up to the other person if they are going to relinquish their joy or happiness, it is still quite possible to impede on it. Sharing their news with others before they have a chance to, doubting the abilities of another, or always rolling your eyes at their “big ideas” are surefire ways to suck the life out of a room and cut a few kite strings.
But it doesn’t end with what we do to others. If we are doing all of this to those we consider important to us, imagine where this behavior is originating, and we are doing to ourselves. We are our own best thieves. We steal our own energy by complaining and casting about for advice we never take. We steal our own energy by not keeping promises to ourselves, by not eating well, exercising or taking care of our physical, spiritual and emotional needs. We drain our wells by believing we have to take care of everything and everyone, when in fact, most people will get along just fine without our control. We steal our own energy by talking about other people.
How often are you late? You’re stealing your own time by sleeping in, getting lost in any kind of media – including books, or procrastinating on your dream by filling your time with the busyness of life.
You’re stealing from your future happiness by succumbing to unhealthy and unhelpful habits in the present, by polluting your essence, by analysis paralysis, by planning without action.
So, no, stealing is not just keeping your hands off other people’s stuff, it is shrinking to fit an imaginary mold set by another. Or believing those voices in your head that tell you, you can’t or don’t have what it takes for whatever.
What is the quickest way to turn this ship around? Gratitude. Take stock of all you already have, even if you believe you have nothing. You have air to breathe. You have a smile and a voice and a heart. You have the ability to help another, just by using that smile or voice or heart. You have all you need or you wouldn’t be here.
(Hint: one of the quickest ways to cultivate joy and gratitude is service. How can you help another?)
In the longer view, it is about awareness. Notice when you are gossiping, complaining, procrastinating. Notice when others are doing this to you. As your awareness grows your options become clear. You can choose to stay small or you can create the space to live a life you love.
As you open to abundance and release the need to control, magic begins to unfold. Opportunities, experiences and tangible stuff starts to materialize. Life becomes lighter, your heart becomes softer.
Non-stealing is simply acknowledging that you are enough. You. Are. Enough. Own it.
There’s this yoga tenet called Satya that asks us to be truthful. Sound advice, but what does that mean exactly?
Perhaps unbelievably, there are many definitions of truth. Truth can be defined as conformity with fact or reality, or a verified indisputable fact, or actual existence. But there are holes in those theories. Facts change. The world is flat, for example. Facts are a place holder until newer facts come along to bump them out of the way.
But truth is also defined as honesty and integrity. That feels like something to work with.
Satya is the second of our yamas (restraints) just after non-harming (ahimsa). It is typically translated as non-lying which, flipped, would mean truthfulness, right? Maybe. So many gray areas surrounding such a simple concept. When we compound non-harming with truthfulness we walk a delicate line. Should I be honest, or should I tell a little white lie to be nice?
There is a way out of the cloud of confusion.
The deeper meaning of this yama points toward living authentically, having no secrets, an open heart. That’s a much taller and deeper order. And it involves math, subtraction to be precise.
Authenticity is the uncovering of one’s Self, not the reinvention of the ego. It is unlearning much of what we have been taught about fear and competition. It is the work of peeling away those attributes and beliefs that make the ego so strong and defensive. It is creating an opening to allow for softness, to make room for the ideas and perspectives of others, to get to the sweet, mushy heart center. You know, vulnerability.
Brene Brown, current vulnerability and authenticity guru has this to say about it, “Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”
It can be scary stuff. Throughout life we create protective fortresses - often without even realizing it - to keep ourselves from getting hurt, looking like an idiot or failing in some way. On the other side of that we are preventing richer relationships, stunting our emotional growth, and not using our perceived failures to learn, brush ourselves off and move on.
While this yama is indeed asking us to be honest with ourselves it is also a guide to interacting honestly with others. It is about telling the truth, but at its core, it is about revealing your truth and sharing it.
So, what’s the first step to living authentically? That’s kind of up to you, but meditation is pretty magical. Breath work. Yoga. Running. You may be wondering if you should be sitting and thinking about this for a long time, figuring it out, but thinking is what built those defenses and limiting beliefs in the first place. Meditation and Yoga Nidra are probably the most efficient and effective ways of letting go of who you think you are and allowing your true self to emerge.
Nothing has to be added. You are perfect already. Subtraction, letting go, listening more than talking, stillness, that’s the work. Carl Jung said, “A lie would make no sense unless the truth was felt to be dangerous.” It may feel scary and dangerous to think about revealing who you think you truly are. But that’s the thinking mind, the ego. You can’t think your way to authenticity. Becoming more vulnerable is becoming more truthful, which is becoming authentic. It is liberating and joyful.
Think about this: Who you think you are is only who YOU think you are, everyone else thinks you’re who they want or need you to be. Pause for a moment and read that again.
Each individual is operating from their own unique perspective and their desires all based on their personal histories. As are you. You cannot change anyone else. You cannot fix another person. That is their work. You cannot make yourself into someone everyone will like. There is no need and it’s not possible. Living authentically creates space for you to just be. And when you are your authentic self, others will more like share their authentic selves.
“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” - Brene Brown
Just do you. That’s what the world needs.
Tucked into the pages of the sometimes daunting, oft confusing, but ultimately aha-worthy, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are 10 little directives call the Yamas and Niyamas. There are five of each.
The Yamas are five restraints, or things we practice NOT doing, while the Niyamas are five observances that would serve us well if we did them. The very first of all of them is Ahimsa. Non-harming. Or to put another way, compassion. But it’s a little more than that too.
Ahimsa asks us to look first at our place in the world. What we believe is our place. If we are coming from that teeny tiny seed that was planted maybe forever ago that “I’m not enough,” then Ahimsa and all the ones that follow will be challenging. But, maybe, that’s kind of the point. It’s work. It is THE work.
Do you practice self-compassion? Do you love what you see in the mirror? Are you comfortable with your family of origin and your place in it? Do you see every opportunity as a gift? No? Then, welcome, let’s get to work.
This non-harming business encompasses thought, word and deed. Negative self-talk, self-deprecation, over-indulging in anything or deprivation. These are antithetical to self-love and compassion.
It’s often said that one must begin to clean up one’s house before grabbing the broom to sweep the home of another. Or something like that. But starting with self-compassion is hard And if it’s hard, we humans will generally avoid it.
Because everything is fine just how it is, right?
If embracing the signs of aging, being okay with the results of over-consumption or loving the place you’re in right now does not feel like an option, look outside of yourself. Begin where it will be easy. Instead of scolding a pet, understand your role in its behavior. Extend grace to the crabby sales person or the reckless driver. Listen to a friend with the intention of hearing and not responding. Maybe the words of Stephen Covey would help here, “seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
By catching ourselves in behavior that feels out of place or icky, we ARE doing the work on ourselves. When we start to offer compassion to others a funny thing happens, our hearts begin to open just the tiniest bit to allow more space for more compassion for more people and eventually it all circles back to you and finding compassion for what you perceive to be your imperfections becomes a love-fest of gratitude for all you have and all you do and all you are. It just keeps growing and growing.
Pay attention. Cultivate awareness of how you think, talk and interact with others. What are you telling yourself? How are you honoring the delicious diversity of others? How are you loving all of life?
Just be kind. The world needs your kindness.