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.