Non-stealing (Asteya): Studying the Yamas

2 Buddhists totally not stealing from each otherFrom a very young age, we are taught that stealing is bad. Normally, the lesson is about physical items. I can remember when I was in preschool, I came home with a crayon in my pocket. It was a lovely color that I had wanted to use and so, instead of putting it back in the messy basket of crayons, I put it in my pocket. It made sense to me. I would use it tomorrow, so I kept tabs on it so I could ensure it would be available when I was ready.

My mom was horrified. I got a full lecture up one side and down the other about stealing, and the next day, she made me return the crayon and apologize to my teachers for stealing. While my mom’s lecture was about me physically liberating the crayon from the preschool, the theft was of more than just the item.

Yes, the crayon came home with me. What if that crayon was someone else’s favorite color? Now, they wouldn’t be able to use it because it wasn’t there. Isn’t that also a form of theft?

Stealing from others

How many times have you had someone steal your thunder? Depending on who your friends and family, it can happen regularly. Sure, sometimes it’s unintentional, but when someone tells a story specifically to one-up you, they are stealing from you. Yeah! That’s right! It’s not just annoying, it’s theft!

Another way we can steal from others is to not let them live their lives. When we see someone going down a road that looks similar to one we’ve been down ourselves, it is tempting to tell them what to do. What we overlook is that by telling them what to do, we are not allowing them the space to learn and create their own stories.

For example, consider absolutely everything about raising children. My son is working on his shoes right now. He is obsessed with them. Unfasten the velcro, fasten it. Turn the shoe every possible direction. Now, he knows that his foot needs to get in to the big hole and his toes need to be facing the enclosed part. He knows this, yet his journey has not yet gotten to the point that this is easy for him to achieve.

I normally sit him down with his shoes while I gather the things I want to bring with us. The other day, I got my stuff together and went over to him, expecting to see socks and no shoes. To my surprise, he had one of his shoes on! By himself, he put on a shoe! Oh, it was a big deal! I called over his brother and we cheered him on and patted his back. It was a mini-party that never would have happened if I did not let him have his opportunity to do it himself.

Denying someone a chance to do it themselves is another way of stealing someone’s thunder.

Stealing from ourselves

In her book, The Yamas and Niyamas, Deborah Adele says:

“In all the ways that we impose an outside image of ourselves onto ourselves, we are stealing from the unfolding of our uniqueness. All demands and expectations that we place on ourselves steal from our own enthusiasm. All self-sabotage, lack of belief in ourselves, low self-esteem, judgments, criticisms, and demands for perfection are forms of self-abuse in which we destroy the very essence of our vitality. All the ways we live in the past or future steal from ourselves. And all the ways we put up fences, whether real or imagined, around our physical belongings or around our mental idealisms, we put up barriers that steal from the full expansion of our own lives.”

When I read that paragraph for the first time, it blew my mind. Yes, absolutely, but I had never taken the time to think about the grave consequences of some of my less-than-desirable actions. I never thought about how attitude and the ability to live in the present have such a direct impact on happiness.

If you would like to check out The Yamas and Niyamas, here is a link to its listing on Amazon. I am an Amazon Affiliate, so I get a commission if you follow this link and buy this book.

Try this

For the next week, challenge yourself to lift people up. Can you give more than you get? Can you be present and challenge yourself to be completely present and sincere when you interact with others? As others are lifted higher, you will be, too.

Here’s a video from Deborah Adele. Incidentally, I studied her book, The Yamas and Niyamas, when I was working on my yoga certification. I have referred back to her book to help me organize my thoughts when writing these articles.

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Comment below about your experiences while lifting up others.

Previous posts on the Yamas:  Non-Violence (Ahimsa):  Studying the Yamas and Truthfulness (Satya):  Studying the Yamas

Sarah Stockett is STOTT certified in Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, & Barrels, Injuries & Special Populations, and CORE; a Yoga Alliance RYT-200; and has studied Active Isolated Stretching. When she is not trying to discover the best exercises to get rid of pain, she likes watching movies and travelling with her family.

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