This week we focus on Non-Stealing or Asteya. Yama is the first stepping stone of the Yoga practice and Asteya is the third of the Yamas.
We all tend to think of ourselves as honest people with a common understanding of the word stealing, as in “taking that which is not ours”. I hate to steal your “I am honest” thunder but the truth is, humankind is the biggest thievery corporation, because stealing is not just taking that which is not ours, but also means, taking more than what we need.
Individually as well as collectively, we do that on a daily basis through crazy consumerism. When you buy something, ask yourself the question: “Do I really need this?” And you will be surprised to hear more often than not the answer to that question will be NO. Refraining from buying something just for the sake of buying it, is practicing Asteya. Refraining from eating more food than you need is practicing Asteya.
We also steal when we take credit that is not ours. Your friend has said something really funny or smart or inspiring, and you like it so much, you repeat it to your friends as if you had come up with it. You have claimed it as your own and no longer see the point in giving your other friend the credit they deserve.
We can steal someone’s reputation with just a few words, “You won’t like this class, it’s too challenging”
We can steal valuable time by remaining glued to our computer, in front of the TV, or babbling away on the phone rather than spending quality time with a loved one.
And if you think downloading music and movies illegally doesn’t count as blatant stealing from the music and film industry, think again. Under-tipping the waitress at the restaurant because you had a bad day at work, focusing on the end result in a pose even if it means injuring yourself, borrowing a book and never returning it back are all acts of stealing from another.
We predominantly fail to practice Asteya when we snatch up from ourselves as well, by neglecting a talent, by belittling or undermining ourselves. We fail to practice Asteya when we lack commitment to our Yoga practice, when we leave before savasana robbing ourselves perhaps of the most precious time in our practice. We steal from ourselves when we constantly look forward to the next moment rather than practice presence.
These transgressions emerge form the firm belief that we cannot always get what we need when we need it, and when something we need manifests, we make sure to hold onto it any which way we can, even through deceit and robbery. Asteya is our opportunity to let go of this penury consciousness and trust that the universe will always provide. This is a very powerful practice to have, as it gives us true insight in our belief of scarcity and a solid ground to stand in our own spirituality rather than “doing” a spiritual practice, but like every Yama, it has to stem from an ongoing microscopic examination of our thoughts and beliefs.
When abstention from stealing is firmly established, precious jewels come. This valuable Yoga Sutra reminds us that the surest way to get what you want is to relinquish the wanting and blindly trust in the workings of the universe. This trust is the spiritual polar opposite of the act of stealing.