The 8 Limbs Series: Asteya: Nonstealing

In the third installment of the 8 Limbs Series I discuss Asetya, or non stealing. Asetya asks us to think about our relationship with the material world. Do you often long for more and never seem to be happy with where you are in the present moment? So many, including myself, are guilty of this. We often wish to look a certain way or to have a bigger house or nicer car or the latest and greatest in new gadgets. We are bombarded with global politics corrupted in power struggles, greed, and wrath. All of these things take, and not-so-much give. Nonstealing asks us to take what is offered and be grateful for what we have. 

Are you stealing from Others?

Have you ever met someone for the first time and immediately said something about them in your head that was a little judgmental? Without knowing their story you make one up about them in your head? This is a form of stealing from someone else. We see this a lot these days. We think we know someone based on how they look, or walk, or talk. Compassion, empathy, and the willingness to listen can often be the path to non-stealing and a more fulfilled understanding that we are all just leading each other home. We are all in this together and eventually we might need that new person on our path to help us at some point. 

Sometimes when the ego is too big it feels the need to look down on others. This type of stealing leads to entitlement and comparison that never leads to any amount of happiness or joy. In a material world with a global economy that is constantly focused on “growth” and “bigger and better” it is now engrained in us to look down on those who do not have as much as “less than” and those who have many assets as “goals”. This can be a dangerous thought pattern which has been contributed to the insane amount of mental health issues running wild in Western society. 

Not stealing from others is simple. When someone has something to say or is excited about something, it is our job to listen, to be a good friend, not one-up them. We all have different experiences in the world an d that diversity should be celebrated. Not numbered and compared. 

Are you stealing from Nature?

The environment and its relationship to human nature is something I have prided myself in trying to understand. I am studying Development in school and one of the main categories is directly related to environmental policies and laws. Yoga philosophy and the political economics of the land go hand in hand. It is fact that in the last 50-60 years the natural resources of the earth have been absolutely taken advantage of. It might seem like I am being pessimistic about this but the facts are there. While some could argue that we need natural resources to build and grow, we have to ask ourselves at what point does it become irreversible? 

Climate change is becoming more and more undeniable and the distribution of food is being used not to feed the poor but instead to create ethanol and to feed factory raised animals that only certain people can afford to eat. The land itself has become a commodity to be bought and sold. This is a problem because many still regard their lands as sacred in varying religious forms. So what do we as simple yogis do? The earth holds energy that can teach us and support us. It catches us when we fall (literally and metaphorically). Both the yogi and the scholar in me thinks that we have to create the trend to protect the earth. By creating a trend that the majority of the population holds value in only then can we begin to overpower those who take advantage of the Earth we live on.

We must remember that we our visitors on the Earth, mere souls living in human bodies. Nothing on Earth actually belongs to us, our human self belongs to it and one day we will return to it. Will it thank you? 

Are you stealing from the Next Generations?

Children fascinate me. Every time I look at one or see one I imagine who they will be and what they will look like when they’re older. A lot can happen in a generational gap. The world can change drastically in 20 years’s time. What are we leaving behind for them? I don’t have children of mine own yet, but I think about them a lot. I have tried to reach certain goals and points in my own life so that I can give them leverage in their’s. I like to think I am doing the best I can to give them a leg up before they even get here. But when I look at so much chaos in the world I battle with myself and ask if it’s even fair to bring them into something so chaotic and unpredictable. I guess this is any normal parent’s anxiety.

To steal from the future is to leave legacies of instability. This seems like a big macro idea but really it starts at the individual level. To demand change in the name of peace and security is to ensure to further creation of human survival. It what we hold at a primal, instinctual level. Think about your own ancestral lineage and everything they did to ensure that you ended up in the life you are living now and I can bet you will be filled with gratitude.  

Are you stealing from Yourself?

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”

We are often our own worst enemy. This is the greatest form of stealing. We compare ourselves to our friends, celebrities, success stories, and all the things our parents want us to be. Self acceptance is a tough one but when achieved is the essence of joy. By tapping into your uniqueness you can walk with the power of your own offering to the world. By shifting your focus inward you can begin to build yourself through the challenges you face. This is how we serve the world rather than take from it. Learn to master your interests and give them out. Your uniqueness is needed.

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