Asteya is a Yama and it means non-stealing.  Sounds easy right?  Pay for things when you go to stores and return things you borrow.  Asteya goes a lot deeper than that and it is something I continue to work on everyday.  Have you ever compared yourself to someone else?  I know I have!  That person is better than me or  that person has nicer clothes than me.  This in a way is stealing.  I am taking away from the other person and making myself feel less than.  It feeds my ego and then somehow I come out feeling superior.  Such an interesting complex that I try not to even get started.  

I try to just love people and love where I am at.   When I find myself being jealous of someone, judging someone or comparing myself to someone, I pray for them.  I pray for them to be happy and have everything they want and live the journey they are meant to live.  I pray for acceptance of my journey so that I am not blocked from Spirit and can continue to grow and help others.

Another huge way I have been guilty of stealing in the past is with other people’s experiences.  Let’s say a friend goes on vacation and she comes back with some amazing stories.  A few minutes into her story I am excited because I went on a trip once too!  I start sharing my stories.  I have just taken away her excitement about the trip she just went on.  I have made it about me.  I try to practice listening and letting people keep their moments.  Many times I am just trying to help.  If a friend has a death in their family, I try to relate to them.  “Oh, I am so sorry, I lost someone recently too.”  This sounds nice, but again I am stealing their experience.  I try to listen and offer kindness but not intrude on their experience.  

Deborah Adele says, “In all the instances where we steal, we have made the situation about us, not about the other.”  I love this quote so much because it reminds me to not make everything about me even when my motives are good.  Listen to other people and be kind.  If someone wants my advice or my experience, they will ask.  

Another part of Asteya that I look at is stealing from the planet.  Some parts of it are very simple.  I don’t litter.  I eat local vegetables whenever possible.  I try to carpool if possible.  One aspect I love to think about is my possessions.  This is something I also got from Deborah Adele’s book.  She presents this idea that everything in the world that I “own” isn’t actually mine.  It belongs to the Earth and I am just borrowing it.  This concept changed my life!  It made me so much less attached to things and stuff.  It made me capable of being more generous.  For example, my son is one year old.  He has grown out of his newborn clothes.  I was hanging on to them in case I ever needed them for another child.  I was keeping clothes for a child I didn’t know if I would ever have, and if I did who knows what gender it would be.  When living with the principal of everything is on loan, the opportunity arose to pass these items on to someone who needed them.  My attachment to the clothes disappeared and I was able to give these which belong to the earth to someone else.  Losing attachment to things is a very spiritual experience for me.   

I remember when I first got sober I really felt like I hated myself.  I was so disappointed in what my life had become and I had very little faith that I would ever amount to anything.  As the fog lifted and I began practicing the 12 steps, that feeling faded quite a bit.  

Sometimes the feeling of not being good enough still creeps in.  There have been many times recently where I have played with the idea of obtaining my master’s degree.  I would love to go back to school for school psychology or guidance counseling.  I have this cycle where I begin looking into schools, look at curriculums and requirements, and then decide it isn’t for me.  In a few moments I go from, “I am going to follow my dreams,” to “I am not smart enough to do this.”  This is stealing from myself.  

When I am living in the past or future, putting myself down or believing I am not good enough,  I am most definitely stealing from my present life, which is always exactly as it is supposed to be.  I am learning to look this fear in the face and walk through it.  I am good enough and I can do it.

What can I do to strengthen my practice of Asteya?  Here are some way I try to bring this Yama into my life on a daily basis.

  • Listen.  Just listen to people when they talk.  Whether it is a friend or family, a Mom at the library, or a stranger at the farm stand.  I practice and am regularly working on listening more and talking less.  When someone shares an experience with me, I do not have to match them.  It isn’t a contest.  When my focus is on listening, my conversations are much deeper and more meaningful.
  • Love.  When I find my thoughts shifting to negativity around something another person has I focus on love.  Thought, “Wow, her life is so much more together than mine.” Solution, “I am so happy her life is so together, I am grateful for my life too.”  Seems a little silly, but practicing changing my thought reaction actually rewires my brain so that I can eventually start with the solution and not have to have the first thought.  
  • Generosity.  I am not in a financial situation where I can typically help others in that way.  What I can do though is be generous with my time and things.  Recently, I was able to donate some of my clothes to someone who needed them.  I was able to give some items from my kitchen that I don’t use to someone who needed them.  I was able to give some extra food that I had to a family in need. These are just some ways in which I can be generous.  When living in the mindset that everything I have is on loan it is very easy to be generous.  As far as time goes, when possible I give my time where I can.  This is a great gift in building relationships in my life and helping others!
  • Kindness.  Kindness to animals and the Earth.  I do this by not killing bugs even if they scare me.  I will recycle and reuse as much as I can.  I am eating less meat in an effort to eventually be a vegetarian.  This one has been hard for me, but I am working towards my goal.

Asteya is a beautiful concept that works perfectly with my recovery.  I love that yoga is more than downward dog and cobra.  Yoga is a way of life where all the parts intertwine to create a life of peace and serenity that really adds so much to my life.  

Book cited:

The Yamas and Niyamas, Deborah Adele