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Maitri musings: asteya (non-stealing)

  • by Claire Ferry - Jan 21, 2019

Asteya is the third of the yamas described in Patanjali's yoga sutra 2.37. Directly translated as non-stealing, it is the misappropriation of what rightly belongs to others (BKS Iyengar in Light on Life).

Simplistically, we may well not steal someone else's yoga mat or props, but we can consider more subtle cases of how else our behaviour might adversely affect others and ourselves. We can through our words or actions, purposely or inadvertently, diminish another's (or indeed our own) experience, reputation or sense of dignity.

During (or even prior to) asana practice do we rob ourselves of the best experience by our attitude, perhaps not making time for practice, or not remaining fully present in the practice? In a group practice I often notice particularly chatty individuals asking questions without taking time to think first, talking with other students during quiet sessions, arriving late or fidgeting, thereby robbing both themselves and others of peace and focus. Indeed I know that I have been the culprit!

In our daily lives off the mat, most of us reading this are surely relatively wealthy and privileged individuals in the West. Simply by virtue of having been born into this culture, we are living on more than the global fair share of resources for one individual. I am not mentioning this for us to be consumed with guilt, rather that we can all take little steps to reduce our impact through our consumer choices.

Just as with ahimsa, non-violence, we expanded the notion to love and benevolence, so with non-stealing we can cultivate the opposite, generosity. We can practice on the mat or off from a place of abundance, and notice the positive feelings which arise from generosity...of time, of easeful communication, of physical gifts.

"Generosity is an activity that loosens us up. By offering whatever we can – a dollar, a flower, a word of encouragement – we are training in letting go." Pema Chodron

Why we might feel the need to steal arises from a sense of lack, or greed, and we will return to that in week 5 with aparigrahah, non-covetousness.

In the meantime, let's practise with the sense of 'I have enough, I am enough'.

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