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Yoga Philosophy and the Yoga Sutras. Asteya

Updated: Nov 5, 2023

The Yamas: part 3. Asteya: Non-stealing

What does it mean? Asteya means so much more than not physically taking something from someone else. We are most likely to associate stealing with tangible objects and material possessions but intangibles such as information, emotions, time or energy are just as likely to be stolen.

Fundamentally, the need to steal arises because of a lack of faith in ourselves to be able to create what we need. Thoughts arise like: “I’m not good enough...I haven't got enough” . The instant we feel a sense of ‘lack’ in life we create desires and wants, and greed raises its ugly head. We begin to look for something to fill that empty sensation and sometimes we feel as though other people have what we want.

We experience a vast array of emotions and sensations and most of us tend to cling to those that make us feel better. those that seem pleasant and enjoyable. And we try to avoid those which hurt us, those which create pain and suffering. However, although the experience itself may be one of happiness, the action of clinging to it in desire ultimately causes more suffering. Patanjali states that by going into the darker places that we fear to venture, we’re made whole; we need to allow ourselves to experience every emotion there is to offer. There doesn’t have to be a good and bad in every situation, there simply just is; therefore we allow ourselves the opportunity to fully experience life in every moment.

Notice where you are clinging. If we can learn to let go of what we don’t need, we make space for the universe to provide us with what we do need, be it a physical possession, an experience, or simply a sense of well being.

Putting it into Practice. Because the urge to steal arises from a sense of unhappiness, incompleteness, sense of lack and envy, the solution is to practice appreciation and gratitude for what you already have.

The Universe by nature is generous and abundant. Just think about the sun shining everyday, it doesn't ask us for money to be put in the meter before it gives us its energy. The earth doesn't charge us every time we pull out a carrot or pick an apple off a tree.

It is possible to tap into this greater flow of abundance using our attention. "Wherever our attention goes, energy flows." So, if our attention is on lack, we create more lack. If our attention is on abundance we create more abundance.

Acknowledging that we already have so much abundance. -if you are struggling to find things to appreciate; remember we have an abundance of air to breathe, a sun that shines, water to drink... we activate The Law of Circulation.

Circulation is an activity of energy movement. it is required for life to exist. E.g. we require the circulation of oxygen and carbon dioxide to live. If we want to receive more oxygen we must first breathe out the carbon dioxide already in our lungs. Only then will there be room for us to receive more air. Both giving and receiving are necessary elements of circulation in the life cycle.

Another example would be to ask my log burner for heat. It can't just give it to me without me first offering it wood/fuel to burn, only then, am I graced with the heat.

This law works in the same way if you want to receive more love, appreciation, money etc.. we must give in order to receive. If we think that we must first receive before we can give, we are coming from a limited state of mind and awareness, a sense of lack, that there's not enough. It takes trust and faith.

Every single one of us has something to give to others. Time, energy, talent, knowledge, love, money. The first step to creating abundance in all areas of your life is to offer these things and give with a sense of gratitude and thanks from a place of abundance. And do so regularly.

By practicing abundance, knowing that we have enough and that we are enough is the key to wanting and desiring less and therefore feeling a lot more whole and happy within ourselves.

How can we show up?

Spend a few moments thinking how you may be stealing from:

- Yourself. where are you being greedy, self absorbed, taking more than you are entitled to maybe you find yourself thinking "I should be more..." and therefore wanting more. Do you allow your presence to be stolen from you through scrolling on your phone & social media for example?

-Your interactions with others. Are you stealing peoples time? in relationships- are you only thinking what you want to get out of it?

-and the wider environment.

These might be hard and uncomfortable questions but we really do need to take a deeper look at our actions and confronting our truth, and practicing the second yama Satya.

You might also consider how you might be stealing from your future self. For example: Are you affecting your health and well-being by making poor choices in your diet and unhelpful habits? Possibly ask the question: is this choice I am about to make an investment in my future self or is this decision stealing from my future self?

Consider how you, your culture, your society (both today and in the past) may have stolen and caused suffering to other communities. How could you re-address the balance?

If you are not fully living and leaning into your dharma (your particular gifts & dreams) you are stealing from those that need to be served by you. The reason you have gone through certain circumstances and the reason you were born and have your unique and particular superpowers, means that your truth can only be spoken through you and only you in a very particular way -different to anyone else, and, there are people out there that need to hear that truth exactly the way you offer it.


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