Welcome back for week three of the ten part yamas and niyamas series. This week we'll be moving into Asteya, the tenant of non-stealing. If you missed out on Week 1 or Week 2, feel free to bop over to see what all we've been covering.
Asteya, the third tenant, focuses on integrity and the refraining from stealing of others and ourselves. Stealing can be seen in multiple facets of life. We can steal from others, from the earth, from the future, and of course, ourselves. All this stealing steams from an attempt to help ourselves feel better but actually takes away from our happiness and keeps us distracted from the present moment. Let's take a look at each area.
Stealing from Others
There are two main ways that we tend to steal from others. The first is totally fueled by our obsession with social media. While we scroll through our feeds and see others' perfect lives, beautiful shots, and their abundant happiness we end up falling into the trap of comparing our lives to theirs. We end up feeling bad about our life because it doesn't compare to their perfect one and start to reach for a life like theirs.
Aside from the fact that we all only show our most perfect moments on social media, just fueling the envy, by striving for another's life, we are both stealing from their life and stealing from our own by living out their truth instead of focusing on showing the world our unique self.
The second piece is trying to one up those around us. Have you ever been in a conversation where after everything you say the other person seems to have a better story to tell or a worse loss than yours? How does this kind of interaction leave you feeling? My guess is that you feel like you weren't heard and have emotions ranging from frustration to sadness about your story.
Trying to be better than those around us is an ego driven desire. We are taking away from that person's achievement or loss by devaluing them with our experience and placing the focus back on us. In essence, stealing the attention and right to emotions from that person.
Stealing from the Earth
Take a minute and think about how often you refer to something as yours - my house, my car, my clothes, my food, my body. We are definitely a culture of claiming as ours, our property. What if we changed from a mindset of my belongings to only being a guest in this world? That all your belongings are just hosting you in this moment. That you body is just a vessel with which you spend this life in. Really, we are all just visitors to this earth and guests to what she has to offer.
A really great example that was given in our text was imagine you were invited over to a friend's home. When you arrive, would you eat all the food you wanted without saying thank you? Would you rummage through their home, taking all that you wanted? I hope the answer to that is "No, of course not!" Well, why do we go through this world taking what we please from the earth as though we have a right to claim as we please?
This earth has so many beautiful things to share with us, but we cannot be mistaken into thinking that we can claim whatever strikes our fancy. How would this world be different if we treated the earth as we would a friend's home? What if we all tread lightly, taking in the beauty, but leaving it just as we found it and giving thanks for the abundance she provided?
Asteya asks us to do just this, to understand that nothing is ours for the taking. The Vedas see non-stealing as a view of resources of the earth being for everyone, the whole community of all beings, not just for us. We are challenged to give something back each time we take.
Stealing from the Future
In line with this "mine" mentality, many of us live in a constant state of overabundance. While we take from the earth and others, we often take as much as we can, as if there's no tomorrow. We can see this in overeating, over drinking, buying things we just don't need. We have turned into a insatiable society, where nothing is ever good enough. And because of this, we are losing sight of our present moment and the value in gratitude.
When we live our lives as though there is no tomorrow, that we might not have what we "need" and seek for more, we lose sight of the present moment and what we actually do have to be thankful for. We forget that there are future generations that will come after us, and all our taking might make the earth unlivable for them.
Stealing from Ourselves
The way I view this piece is that all the previous ways of stealing lead to us stealing from ourselves.
Focusing on others, steals from our own development, from seeing our own uniqueness and living our own truth. We never become who we were truly meant to be and don't share that with the world.
By stealing from the earth, we steal our opportunity to have a relationship with her and other beings. We stay focused on finding things we can take and use instead of just being grateful for what is right in front of us.
Using a "mine" mentality and taking all in sight, we steal from our ability to be present. A focus on overabundance keeps us constantly thinking about the future and worrying about whether we have enough. Instead, if we can be thankful for what we currently have and see that it is enough, our lives are complete just as they are, we bring more happiness and peace into both our lives and those of future generations.
So, what are some ways to make sure that we're not stealing and keeping in line with Asteya? Well, the tenant asks us to do a couple things:
Shift our Focus
Since stealing tends to require an outward focus, on what others are doing or what we can take from the earth, the first thing we can do is bring the focus back to ourselves. This isn't meant to be in a narcissistic way where the mentality is "it's all about me." Rather, it's asking us to look inside and find what we truly want our lives to look like. Bring out our own goals and dreams, not those that are created out of envy or reaching for others' lives.
To bring the focus back to us, we need to learn about our desires and ground ourselves in them. We can focus on building up the courage to go after our dreams and pursue our own goals. Without this, we'll just remain stuck in the "mine" mentality and seek to take dreams of others because we are too fearful to pursue our own path.
Build our Competency
This is probably my favorite lesson of this tenant. Ateya says that what comes our way without hard work will eventually evade us. The belief here is that long-lasting change and accomplishments come with hard work and building competency to achieve our goals.
Think about people who win the lottery. They are handed millions of dollars, and far more often than not, they end up worse off a few years later than they were before winning the lottery. This is due to not having the competency to possess this amount of money. People who win the lottery often don't know how to manage a large amount of money, spend it on frivolous things, and end up making tons of enemies.
In order to create life-long accomplishments, we need to find the value in learning and growing in order to make those accomplishments happen. Many times, the lessons we learn and the competency we grow within ourselves has more value than the actual end goal. I can use myself as an example here.
In writing this blog, the goal might be to have lots of people read it and take something from it into their own life. However, in the process I'm likely to learn several things - how to be a better writer, how to create a blog, how to take photos and edit them, how to market my content, grow my own spirituality through reading and reflecting on the yamas and niyamas. While none of those are the end goal, and who knows if tons of people will end up reading this, those lessons are far more valuable to me in the long-run. I can take all those skills and transfer them to several other future goals and grow my competency in my abilities.
Okay, time for those exercises. Here are some ways to bring more Asteya into your life:
- Take time this week to notice when you compare yourself to others or try to one-up someone in a conversation. Practice being grounded in your own uniqueness and lifting others up. Take part in their joy or loss and don't make it all about you.
- Practice seeing your surroundings as a gift, as if you're a guest within mother earth's home. Notice how this changes your outlook on the world and how your behavior might change as a result.
- Take time to slow down and focus on the present moment. Instead of worrying about the future, whether you'll have enough, take stock of what you have today, in this moment. Making a gratitude list is a great way to practice this.
- Make a list of your goals. Ask yourself what you truly want, not what you lust after from others' lives. Once you've done this, make another list of tasks or skills you'll need in order to achieve these goals. Use this as a starting point to research how to learn and grow your own competency to make your goals a reality.
Alright, loves, that wraps up our third week together through this yama and niyama journey. I hope you're finding these helpful. Feel free to let me know if you try any of these exercises or have feedback on things you'd like to see moving forward.
See you next week,