Welp — here I am, three days before the ides of March, making my monthly “kickoff” post. On the bright side, February was an epic failure in keeping up with the blogging, so I’ll call this month a win, albeit just under the gun. The third Yama, Asteya, translates to “non-stealing.” Seems like a no-brainer, right? Haven’t robbed a bank or swiped any precious goods from a friend’s house lately. Good to go! But, as Yoga International points out, “Most of us are not thieves in the typical sense, but upon closer look, you might find small but significant ways that you steal from yourself…” and I would add, “and others.”
So how do we practice non-stealing in less obvious and more complicated ways aside from keeping our hands un-reddened? For me, it means not buying or consuming anything that is not necessary or beneficial for my survival or basic comfort. In other words, I will not take anything that does not already belong to me, or belongs (even potentially) to someone else. This means no unnecessary purchases of clothing, food, or entertainment. If I already have it, I have to use it. If I don’t have it, but don’t need it, I don’t get / take / buy it. Just the basics.
But, wait… what IS necessary?
The practice of Asteya comes with many grey areas and slippery slopes. One could get quite fanatical limiting herself to JUST ENOUGH of the bare essentials to see another day. Many people successfully and commendably live on fruit and nuts, by wearing one outfit, and in the tiniest of tiny houses. We could also justify the hell out of anything — “But it was on sale!” or “Just ONE more episode” — both of which I am guilty. I’m a big fan of the middle path, subscribing to not too much and not too little (which, yes, is grey and slippery in itself). But this Goldilocks method helps me balance the extremes and practice Asteya with honesty (or, um, Satya) and kindness (oh, hey Ahimsa). In heart of hearts, I KNOW when I am about to make a purchase I don’t REALLY need. In my belly of bellies I can feel when I am treating myself to something that might bring me a little bit of joy but is actually one (glass) too many. On the flip side, I can sense when to trust my (real) gut and remember that non-violence, including forgiveness, is the foremost ethical constraint.
Let me close by saying… I have already fucked up. I bought clothing that I didn’t need; I consumed food and beverages far beyond what I needed to survive (and maybe even set myself back a little); I have binged on Netflix (although I would argue that Ugly Delicious is a necessary watch for anyone who values culinary experiences, interesting food history, and cross-cultural connections). I recognize these faux pas with full disclosure and total respect for their consequences. As this practice teaches me again and again, perfection is not possible but it doesn’t mean I can’t try. Everyday I wake up with a stronger conviction and constantly renewed dedication to not just Asteya, but the complete set of Yamas & Niyamas, in all their beauty, challenges, and complexities.
A bit more complicated than “thou shalt not steal” after all…