The third Yama (restraint) in Patanjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga is Asteya. In its literal form it means non-stealing. We all know it is not right to steal. Most of us don’t shoplift. We would not walk into a friend’s home and leave with a trinket or a pair of their shoes in our bag. With Asteya in mind, let us consider other forms of stealing that are not so obvious.
You are at a traffic light, and it is way yellow, but you move into the intersection anyway to take a left, ultimately blocking oncoming traffic who have every right to go straight as their light turns green. You’ve stolen their turn.
Your friend tells you excitedly she’s gotten a new car, and before she can even finish the sentence you lament that you need a new car, yours is having all sorts of problems, yada,yada. Not maliciously or even consciously, you’ve stolen her thunder.
On Facebook, we see it all the time, people post quotes without crediting the source.
In business, people take credit for ideas that aren’t their own. Often in meetings there is someone who monopolizes the floor robbing others of a chance to speak. Many find loopholes to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. We steal from future generations as we use up their natural resources, pollute the environment, and eliminate protected wildlife areas.
Or how about stealing someone’s time? You are on the phone, and the conversation is coming to an end. They tell you they have to go, but perhaps to fill up an empty space inside yourself you start up a new topic of conversation, keeping them on longer, when you know they wanted to get off the phone five minutes ago. They hang up feeling resentful, and not in a hurry to talk with you again. We’ve stolen their energy.
Why do we steal?
All stealing comes from a place of lack. It comes from fear that there won’t be enough time, money, resources, attention, love. When we know about the concept of Asteya, perhaps we begin recognizing the energy when it comes up in ourselves. When we feel this grasping it is a call for compassion. We use Asteya not to beat ourselves up for times we have “stolen,” (because we have all done it in one way or another), but to walk more consciously into the future. We don’t have to steal. Instead of charging forward, “taking what’s ours,” we have the option of using our yoga when we feel fear. We can soften. We can breathe. When we breathe, we can think more clearly and make better choices. We can reassure ourselves that we are alright. All will be well. And perhaps we’ll find when we let go and stop taking, there will be so much more to gain.