The Path To Peace | Asteya Part 1
“Comparison is the thief of joy.”
Asteya (non-stealing) is the third guideline under the ethical tenets of the Yama. And, just as the first two we covered (Ahimsa and Satya) had multiple layers of meaning and depth, so does Asteya.
It addresses, of course, the “technical” meaning of the guideline—literally not stealing things that are not yours. But it also means don’t wastefully consume the earth’s resources, don’t hoard things you don’t really need, don’t take credit for what is not yours and don’t steal time from yourself or peace from those around you.
There’s a lot we steal from others and ourselves that is not in the form of a possession.
Where does this need to “steal” come from? A space of lack. We think we don’t have enough, we think we aren’t enough as is…
When we feel like we are not enough or we don’t have everything we want, desire and greed take over. Have you ever felt like everyone had what you wanted but were never going to get?
This is fairly common in life (unfortunately) and also in yoga. And, in fact, it will prevent (and has prevented) people from coming to a yoga class. Comparisonitis, we call it. You might see the pictures of the yogis on Instagram, twisted into pretzel shapes or doing a one-handed handstand and get the impression that that’s what yoga is about. “I’ll never be able to do that, I can’t even touch my toes,” you think to yourself. So why bother?
By allowing that fixed mindset and comparisonitis in to your precious mind, you are stealing from yourself. You are stealing your joy and your possibility. If you were to simply come to a yoga class and sit quietly in child’s pose or lay peacefully in savasana, you have practiced yoga. No arm-balancing-pretzel-twists or upside-down-party-tricks required.
The word “yoga” means “to yoke”, as in to connect and unite. The true practice of yoga takes place on and off the mat, in all aspects of life. If you are comparing yourself to the yogi next to you in class, you likely do the same in other life situations.
In a yoga class Asteya looks like this: You may push yourself harder than your body is ready for to achieve what the pose is “supposed” to look like instead of how it feels in your body. By pushing yourself to attain a posture not only are you robbing yourself of a safe and sustainable yoga practice, you are also stealing your presence and peace with the posture.
Asteya can also look like this in a yoga class: You rush in at the speed of light, stressed from traffic and all those red lights, throw your mat on the floor, stomp over to the blocks, throw one on your mat and head out (door slamming) to the bathroom. You have just stole the peace from every, single person in the room. Remember: It’s their practice space too. Yes, you are stressed but let the calm, focused and peaceful energy of those in the room wash over you. Don’t steal from them, absorb from them.
Asteya off the mat looks like this: You hoard unnecessary items—shoes, purses, baseball caps, t-shirts, books, movies, etc. etc.).
“Mankind’s greed and craving for artificial needs is also stealing.” -Ghandi
And more than likely, the more you have, the more you feel you need. It’s almost like a drug—a little quits working in the way it used to and you need more and more to feel the same “high.” The real root of the hoarding is emptiness in your heart and soul. You temporarily satisfy the gnawing emptiness with a new something. And it works. For a little while. Then the feeling comes back again, you shop again. You’ve heard the term “retail therapy,” yes?
Take a few minutes for some true introspection and reflection on what hoarding really means in your life. Examine your “extras”—could someone else benefit more from these things? Are you preventing someone else from having something they might need more than you do?
Stay tuned for Part 2 of Asteya next week – we’ll talk about the “cure.”