Asteya - Practicing Non-Stealing

Within the practice of yoga, there are observances for both inter-personal relations and your relationship with yourself.

These guidelines, the yamas and niyamas, are universal and can be found in some form in many spiritual traditions worldwide. The yamas which regulate our interactions with others include:

  1. Ahimsa - Non-violence
  2. Asteya - Non-stealing
  3. Satya - Truthfulness
  4. Aparigraha - Non-possessiveness
  5. Brahmacharya - Non-excess

And the niyamas which provide guidelines for our personal practice are:

  1. Saucha - Purity
  2. Santosha - Contentment
  3. Tapas - Self-discipline
  4. Svadhyaya - Self-study
  5. Ishvara Pranidhana - Devotion

Asteya, or non-stealing, often quickly gets checked off the list and forgotten. "Oh, I don't steal, so I'm good with this one!" Material items, maybe. But what if we take the material out of the picture. What then is left to "steal?" 

Time

How many times have you thought "Wow, what a waste of my time." What brought that one? Unhelpful customer service? Long lines or on hold only to be dropped or told you cannot be helped? A trivial conversation that goes on and on? We've all been on the receiving end of this at some point. But how many times have we delivered this kind of service or delay to another? How many times have we unnecessarily asked for someone to do something for us we were perfectly capable of? And at what point does it become an infringement upon their time and free-will? I am not indicting anyone or suggesting you must change your behavior in some way. I simply want to provide some food for thought.

Happiness

Imagine, you've just received some terrific news or a long-awaited package in the mail. You run up to a friend, coworker, or loved one to share your excitement, only to be met with a lackluster acknowledgment and dismissive look. Your balloon bursts, your deflated, and the joy you hoped to share is gone. We have all been there, on both sides of this scenario. It's so easy to get caught up in our own lives we don't have time to consider another's. Maybe you had a bad day. Maybe you were busy and stressed. Maybe you had your own news to share you overshadowed theirs. It happens. But next time it does, you can think about it afterwards. Consider the situation and look for ways to improve in the future.

Peace of Mind

There is nothing quite like having your peace of mind taken away. To be sure, the advanced practitioner does not allow others to steal away contentment, happiness or time. She simply flows with it, remaining calm and still while the storm passes. For the rest of us, we need a little help and a lot of practice. So when another person displays aggressive or unpredictable or suggestive behavior, oftentimes it sends us into a downward spiral of stress, anger and fear. To be sure, not everyone intends to have that effect on you. They may consider it a joke or harmless. We cannot be responsible for how others react. But we can reflect, look at our motives for our words or deeds. And when we observe others reacting negatively, consider the necessity of what we said or did. When all else fails, remember, was it true? Was it kind? Was it necessary? Just because a statement is true, does not make it kind or necessary. That can be said of all three of these attributes. If the statement or action doesn't meet all three, then seriously consider remaining in inaction. At the end of the day, we each have our own path. We each have our own free-will. And to force a truth on someone who does not want the truth is an infringement upon their free-will. 

I hope this has provided some food for thought. Let us all find ways of interacting with each other to promote love, kindness, contentment, and tolerance. And remember, the world doesn't exist only on the material plane. When you take "things" out of the equation, how do you relate to the other yamas and niyamas?