Asteya, the third of the five yamas, is a bit more challenging to digest. One of the articles I read talked about how at first glance the idea of non-stealing (of material things) is easy to understand but once you take this concept further, taking it inwards, it is more difficult to comprehend. Why? Because stealing stems from the fact that there is a sense of lack in your life – a sense of not being good enough. Having read this and internalized it, this sense of not being good enough can be one’s belief system. If this is one’s belief system, then you are confronted every waking moment with the urge to “steal.”
For something that may seem basic like time and attention, I have not thought that it could be interpreted that it could be stolen from someone. The idea that you are craving for someone’s time and attention, may it be through talking on the phone for a long time or having each conversation be about your own problems or stories (whether trivial or serious), was such an insight about this yama. I guess another way to look at it is that, with this particular example, when we are so into ourselves we really do not stop to think that we are stealing someone’s time. We have created a self-indulgent bubble that we think most of the time it is always about us. It does sound very self-conceited.
I find it interesting how the concept of non-stealing can be so in-depth. As a yoga teacher, I have experienced several times after teaching a class feeling so high then after an hour or so feeling so drained. Relating it to this yama, I understand that when you enter the room students bring with them their energies, thoughts, baggage, etc., and whatever their intention is for that particular class, in a way, they are looking to get something in return for their practice. Of course, after each class, both students and I come out feeling elated and good then once I continue on during the day I sometimes feel that I have a sense of being drained or tired. It feels like a see-saw where on one end I come in to teach and give out my energy and sense of positivity then coming out after, moving to the other end, feeling empty and needing to refill my own need.
In one of the other articles I’ve read, it explained “when we begin to let go of what we don’t need, we make space for the universe to provide us with what we do need.” This again goes back to if your belief system is “I am not good enough” then we will not be able to let go of things because we have a tremendous amount of sense of “lacking”. To change this thinking to “I am good enough” is to practice “abundance” because if you feel that if you have enough, then you are enough. This sounds so eloquent and yet it is truly difficult to practice. It seems to me that changing a deep seeded belief system does not happen overnight. But rather feeling overwhelmed by this, I can start with small things like practicing positive thoughts and practicing being present in the moment.
Relating this to my life, sometimes I catch myself feeling that I need to be a “superwoman” – someone who needs to do everything at the same time or when time permits. At first I thought this was a good characteristic to have but being a superwoman is truly tiring. Trying to juggle so many hats – mother, wife, daughter, business owner, yoga teacher, friend, mentor, etc – takes so much time and effort to manage all of them. Instead of feeling the need to doing everything and being everything to everyone, it was such a humbling experience to accept that I cannot do everything and that I need help to fulfill the roles. What do I mean by this? By trying to be someone to everyone, I have actually robbed myself of being present in the moment because my mind is always racing from one thought to the next, trying to fulfill one role to the next. Not only do I feel physically tired but also mentally tired that I rob myself of being physically and mentally fit!
Everyday is a a practice of finding a sense of balance in all aspects of our lives. How do you differentiate from a sense of lacking to a sense of contentment and abundance? How do you move from taking energy from someone for your benefit to taking just enough or giving back the same energy? But maybe the bigger question is this: how do you know that you are “full” that you would not need to “steal” from someone anymore? Just like in yoga practice, one has to create that self-awareness to be able to discern and accept what will make us whole and happy.
Jo Bernardo Endaya is a vinyasa flow, pre and postnatal teacher at Urban Ashram Yoga, mom of 2 and entrepreneur. Her business Happy Helpers, provides jobs for women in the GK Communities.