A Life Without Theft: Asteya
"Comparison is the thief of joy."
Non-stealing or asteya is the third Yama in the yogic tradition. Like it's precursors ahimsa and satya (see previous blog posts for information on the first two Yamas), asteya initially sounds straightforward. Stealing material objects is generally accepted as a crime. In recent years, "pirating" software or music from the Internet was also categorized as stealing. It is clear that we should not take things that do not belong to us. But what about time? Or attention? How far does this precept go?
When we keep others waiting we are essentially stealing their time. Time is precious and we all have the same twenty-four hours in each day. And while we cannot always control being late, perpetual tardiness is an example of stealing from others. Another way we steal time is staying late after gatherings, such as classes, dinner parties, etc. When the event is over and we mill around chatting, we are holding up the host from his other responsibilities. Checking in to see if a teacher or host has time to talk would be an alternative that demonstrates respect for her time.
We all want to be recognized as special at one time or another, having reached a goal, aced a test, or whatever makes us feel accomplished. Acknowledging the success or accomplishments of others in no way takes away from our own. And yet, there are times when we hear about the success or challenge of someone else and reply with a statement of our own accomplishments or a comment to diminish the work of the other person. Stealing the limelight from others in this way is just that: stealing. Comparing ourselves to others is both violence toward ourselves and stealing from our own sense of uniqueness. Simply listening and acknowledging the hard work that went into the success or the pain behind the challenge is a more positive mode of connecting and respecting the other person.
Those voices inside of us that tell us that we are not enough or can't do whatever it is we are trying to do are stealing, as well. Peace of mind can belong to each of us. But when we allow ourselves to listen to the audio of negative self-talk we are stealing our own peace. Why would we consciously steal from ourselves? We are all worthy of respect and deserving of peace of mind. Allowing ourselves to think positively and maintain a healthy self-esteem are examples of asteya. Not stealing from ourselves demonstrates self-respect, as well as a desire to live at peace.
Asteya or non-stealing goes deeper than just the material world. Stealing time from others, the limelight of attention, and even our own peaceful outlook are all ways in which people steal. Respecting the time and words of others will bring each one of us closer to living yoga off the mat.