Practicing Non-Stealing Every Day

I keep making the joke that asteya (the yogic yama- or restraint- of non-stealing) seems like a Winona Ryder problem on the surface… however, that’s probably not too compassionate to Winona, but if you like popular culture that joke will at least make you laugh..

Stealing is a problem we ALL face every day, ALL DAY. Whether we rob ourselves or each other, we are in a constant state of stealing, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

Where does stealing come from? A scarcity mindset. If you have steal a physical object, it’s because you feel (or actually do) have a lack of it. If you steal people’s time, energy or accolades, it’s because you feel a deficit of it yourself. Practicing asteya really means looking at our ego and how we feel less than, and where WE can do the tough work of filling our cup either physically, emotionally or mentally. This is deep, important self-work and the culmination of it is truly exclaiming “I am ENOUGH, I HAVE enough, I will receive what I need WHEN I need it.”

We were lucky enough to have Caitlin Byczko, IP attorney at Barnes & Thornburg, share how she sees stealing on a daily basis. While her job is to defend those who have been stolen from in the intellectual property sphere, her knowledge of stealing extends far past that. Below are some considerations for how we steal from ourselves and each other, and ways to practice non-stealing off our yoga mats.

On a deeper level, Asteya means abandoning the very intent or desire to possess or steal anything- whether it is a material, a talent, a relationship, a gift, achievement, success, time or natural resources- that primarily does not belong to you, through force or deceit or exploitation, by deeds or words or thoughts.

How We Steal From Others

  1. Natural Resources: Do you let the faucet run? Keep the lights on when you aren’t using them? Buy more groceries than you use? Any of these ways might be how you are stealing natural resources from someone else. Consider using only what you need, buying only what you need so that everyone can take advantage of our limited natural resources.
  2. Time: This was a major theme of our dharma talk- being late steals time from others. Every once in a while life is going to happen, however if you are consistently late consider how that affects others and how it is stealing their time. Leave 5 minutes earlier, do one less thing OR consider why you’re always late? Do you really WANT to go to that meeting? Do you inadvertently miss part of it because you do not value that meeting? Then perhaps you need to have a candid conversation about why you’re late, and why you would rather do other things which leads to:
  3. Energy/ Speech: Be candid with people. One example Caitlin shared was ambiguous, verbose emails. We struggle to say exactly what we mean in a kind and direct way. When we fail to be candid, we take up more time of the receiver. Some suggestions to be candid (without being a total jerk):
    • If you pose a problem, also pose a proposed solution. Example: “Hey I noticed that we are out of ‘x’, would you like me to put an automatic order on Amazon for it? Or can I pick it up on my way home from work?”
    • If you need immediate response, make sure they know that… immediately… and also attempt proactivity always when possible (aka, don’t send an ‘immediate/ urgent’ email 2 hours before something is due. Give people appropriate time to respond). Example: In the subject include: IMMEDIATE RESPONSE NEEDED or if it’s something that does not require a response, share that in the first line of the email or subject: FYI, No Response Necessary. People will appreciate that direct communication immensely!
    • Is it really important? Call them. Get to the point!
    • Google it. Have you done all of your work prior to messaging this person? Is there a part of it you might be able to answer yourself by simply googling something. Take the leg work off of the other person and pinpoint their specific skills so that they can focus on that and not on the superfluous stuff.
  4. Credit: If you learned something directly from someone that was ‘original’ to them, or you know the source of something- cite it. Nothing is truly original AND if we are able to give credit where credit is due, share it. Not crediting a source… or stealing anything really is a sign of you operating from a place of scarcity. If you cannot give credit to someone else, you are afraid of what people might NOT think of you- that you’re not good enough, not smart enough or not worthy enough. By giving credit to others you show humility and also that you are not afraid to share the wealth. Operating from that space is truly from an abundance/ enoughness mindset.

“The urge to steal, whether material things or otherwise, often comes from the subconscious belief that there’s not enough to go around. This fear of lack or scarcity leads to greed or hoarding.” -Christine Malossi

How We Steal From Ourselves

  1. Comparison: Have you ever looked over at the person’s mat next to you, or stared at an Instagram post of someone and WISHED you could do the pose like them, have their life or insert anything that is not yours or your experience? Comparison is the thief of joy. Start by appreciating yourself as you are. You have no clue what it took for that person to get to where they are, nor does it matter. Even comparing ourselves to ourselves can be a slippery slope. As you are today, you are ENOUGH. Start there.
  2. People Pleasing: Do you rob yourself of your own needs and wants to cater to others? Consider how often you accommodate others only to empty your own cup, leaving you feeling drained, annoyed and sad. Be courteous and direct when something doesn’t work for you, and do what serves you. There’s probably a way you can collaborate so that all parties get what they need.
  3. Controlling ALL Possible Outcomes: Life is uncontrollable. You could be healthy one day and sick the next. You could have a great job one day and jobless the next. It simply isn’t all in our control, however how we RESPOND to life’s twists and turns IS. We rob ourselves of joy and peace of mind when we try to control everything or respond in outrageous ways. Try not to steal from yourself peace of mind by using the meditation technique of ‘No Big Deal’. No matter what’s thrown at you, try repeating “ok, no big deal” and see how that might give you some peace of mind back!

If you must steal, follow this Irish Proverb:

May you never lie, steal, cheat or drink. But if you must lie, lie in each other’s arms. If you must stealsteal kisses. If you must cheat, cheat death. And if you must drink, drink with us, your friends. Health and a long life to you.

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