“A man goes out on the beach and sees that it is covered with starfish that have washed up in the tide. A little boy is walking along, picking them up and throwing them back into the water. “What are you doing, son?” the man asks. “You see how many starfish there are? You’ll never make a difference.” The boy paused thoughtfully, and picked up another starfish and threw it into the ocean. “It sure made a difference to that one,” he said.”

Nicholas D. Kristof, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

Asteya: Non-stealing

Each month I’ve been studying a different yama sutra in yoga. Think of a yama as ethics or a good rule for living by. A sutra can be thought of as a rule. (If you’re not a yoga person, that is ok! Just a little context for you.)

The yama asteya is translated to mean ‘non-stealing.’ Now of course we all know that the literal idea of stealing is a bad one. You don’t go to a person’s house and just take what you want, or go to a store and steal a shirt. Here we are talking about something less literal. Non-stealing is an important concept to apply to yourself and to the people around you.

Let’s think of an example.

You’re catching up with a friend at church, or a coworker at lunch and they are telling you about something that happened to them. If you jump in and say “oh yeah that happened to me once” and begin to tell your experience, you have just stolen them of their time to express what they are going through or what they may be feeling. The idea of ‘one upping’ another is a form of non-stealing. Your life and experiences don’t out weigh someone else’s just because they are yours.

Here’s an example of stealing from yourself.

You’re in a yoga class (or working out, reading, praying or hanging out with friends….whatever you do that is relaxing) and all you can think about is planning for the next thing. You’re going through your grocery list, you’re thinking about the trip you’re taking next month and the present you need to buy for that wedding. You are robbing yourself of living in the moment. It makes me think of the quote:

Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.

John Lennon

And how right that is! Take a minute and view your surroundings, notice the things you see, the smells, the feeling you have there; enjoy each moment.

Based on the book The Yamas and Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice by Deborah Adele I’ve been pondering questions about asteya such as:

  • How do I steal other people’s time?
  • Am I being a forklift for others and lifting them up (instead of only comparing their experiences to my own?
  • How am I stealing from the earth? Am I treating it like I own it, or just as though I live here? Can one actually own the earth?
  • Where am I giving back without expecting anything in return? Where am I taking without giving back?

This concept hit me in a new way this past week. My husband and I have been taking Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey and working on our finances. In this final week we talked about how, as christians, the money we have is not ours. Sure we work hard and are entrusted with it, but it is our duty to give generously and be stewards of this money. This struck me as another form of asteya. We can’t hold on too tightly to money or material possessions, because in the end they aren’t ours and they aren’t going to make our lives better.

I love when two parts of my life overlap. We must live life with open hands and hearts, not taking, but giving!

What thing in your life do you have a death grip on? Is it something you can let go that might open yourself up for something even better? Are you living in the moment or stealing from yourself precious moments you may never get back?

Ponder on this and see how you can practice asteya in your life.

~Shelby