This is the third week in the series of the 8 limbs of yoga I am focusing on in my weekly column. Asteya — non-stealing.
As in the other limbs, the philosophy behind it is deeper than the surface meaning.
Yes, it means not stealing “things,” but the idea of asteya also encompasses not taking things from people that hasn’t been given to you, like their time, someone’s mate’s attention, taking something more than you should.
For example, I live in the country and during COVID I have worked from my home office at times for my “day job” — I have what is considered a front-line essential position that requires my full attention toward my work.
One day, I was working and someone pulled up to my front gate and started honking. I was in the middle of something important but opened the door and yelled out to see if they needed help. It was a census worker.
I have filled out my census early on, I know it’s important and why it’s important for funding programs and other things so I do it right away when it comes out, plus, I don’t want anyone coming to my door. I live in the country for a reason.
I told her I did my census and I was working. She yelled, “I know,” but she started asking me questions about a farm where the owner does not live at the land and I told her “no they didn’t live there, and never had in the years I’ve lived on my property.”
I again said I was working and had to get back in. She kept asking me more questions about people I don’t know that have property out by where I live.
I started to feel put out that she kept taking my time, even though there was no reason she should have felt it was hers to take. It’s a small example, but I think it describes it well.
Is there someone that calls you only when they need something and complains often, without checking to see if you are in the emotional headspace to take on the energy they are putting out? That is an example of “stealing” because they are taking your energy without your consent.
Other examples in day-to-day life are the people who connect online with someone else’s mate, even when they are “just chatting,” it is really more than that because of the spirit behind it.
Asteya is “not stealing and not having the intent to steal from another through action, speech or thought.” It connects to the ideas of gratitude and non-coveting.
There is a quote that I like; I feel it sums up the virtue well.
“Be content with what you have, rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” — Lao Tzu
Asteya is one of the yamas of yoga, the social ethics. It is about embracing the spirit of abundance and that nothing that is yours is not already yours, to simplify the thought behind it. Having too much stuff is also part of the philosophy.
This is one of the things I personally need to keep working on – having excessive stuff, shoes, books, art supplies that I’m not currently using, clothes I don’t wear.
My attachment to these things is a struggle for me to balance with the yoga philosophies I try to embrace in my life. In the Yoga Sutras Patanjalis states (Sutra 37), “When non-stealing is established, all the jewels (wealth) approach the person.”
This is yet another reason to declutter your life and clear space for what is truly yours. I am a work in progress, as are we all.
I invite you to a new Facebook page, “the Local Zen” created by my friend Jewel Bethel West and I will be an administrator where we will share local yoga and wellness events and resources.
Liz Jones can be reached at Liz@LizJones.co or through LizJones.co