When we talk about “not stealing,” I think it is pretty safe to say we all think about something physical – a wallet, money, car, food. Most of us know and practice not taking other people’s personal property – we were taught from an early age it is not acceptable; it is wrong. But what about the other ways we steal from each other, such as time or resources? More importantly, what about the ways we steal from ourselves every day? In yoga, there is an eight limb path that leads to enlightenment – the yoga poses people practice are the third limb. However, in the very first limb, we have the Yama’s – our restraints we practice as we go out into the world and interact. Those restraints are Non-violence, Truth, Non-stealing, Non-attachment, and Non-excess. Asteya, or non-stealing, can help us cultivate a stronger relationship with others with just a few considerations. It can also help us start to restore balance to our lives when we practice it within yourself.
In examining outward relationships, one of the most significant ways we take from others is time. When we are late, we could be holding up a meeting, or maybe a class, and if someone has to repeat information to you because you were absent, or just not paying attention, you have taken more time. If we are late to work, we are taking time and money from an employer. Not to mention, the other chain of events that surround time stealing – rushing, forgetting things, apprehension – to name a few. Another way we take from each other is through our experiences. Have you ever been excited to share news – for example, you just booked your first vacation to the Bahamas – you go up to your friend and say “Guess what….!”, only to have their response be – “Oh I’ve been a bunch of times, in fact…” and then they continue and steal your story and it’s about them? Whether it be a trip or an award or a promotion, this is something we have all been on both sides of and in most cases, I think it is just accidental. Some people struggle to communicate and connect, and that could be what it is – and then there are what I like to call the ‘one-uppers,’ who are always going to interject their story. Understanding different communication styles will take time, but you can immediately start to adjust your own and be the listener and speaker that you want to be.
What about stealing from ourselves? So often we are giving to others, we don’t give to ourselves – such as time. I firmly believe that if you want to take care of the others around you, you have to take care of yourself. That means something different to everyone, but it is essential to figure out what is important to you and make that happen. Maybe it is a yoga class, or piano lesson, or church. If there is something you are missing, it’s time to figure out how to give yourself that. Habits that we have developed in our daily life lead to us stealing from our future, generally through excessive or unhealthy behaviors now. Each time we judge or criticize ourselves, we are taking from our selves, too. If this sounds familiar, try starting with just 5 minutes a day to shift those thoughts – there are meditations or journaling practices that can get you working towards habits and goals.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes: “Speak to make yourself happy, don’t speak to impress others.” Namaste 🙏