One of the 8 limbs of the yogic path as outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is asteya, which roughly translates to non-stealing. (For those of you unfamiliar, Patanjali was a famous sage and his Yoga Sutras are the guiding document for living a yogic life.)
On the surface, non-stealing is quite straightforward – don’t take from others something (or someone) that/who doesn’t belong to you.
But on a deeper level, non-stealing is so much more complex. This week is an appropriate time to talk about it, too, given the upcoming Black Friday madness that happens in the US.
You many be stealing and not even know it
Non-stealing also means not stealing non-material things from others – and maybe more importantly from yourself. It means not robbing others of your time, or robbing yourself of the time needed to complete a task. It means being respectful of others and what they need to get done in their lives, sometimes without you.
Non-stealing is just as relevant when we talk about time and people as it is when we talk about goods sitting on shelves in stores. It’s about doing the right thing and understanding what the right thing means, even if it inconveniences you.
For example, shopping on Thanksgiving. I’ve been reading a lot about this in recent days. Retailers are riling shoppers up already preparing them to start shopping on the holiday. Some people are already forming lines. Others are boycotting, vowing to never shop on Thanksgiving day because that is a day to be grateful for what you have and spend time with your family. It is not the day to be greedy to grab something new at insanely low prices while inconveniencing all the employees that now have to work on a holiday and don’t get to spend time with their families. Not to mention your own family you happen to be slighting.
When sadness turns into stealing
On the other hand, I’ve read accounts of those who don’t have a family to spend Thanksgiving with and so the distraction of retail therapy is the anti-dote to their impending sadness. Maybe I am a very lucky person, but I have invitations in several states to join others for Thanksgiving and the yoga community in general is a very generous group of people always offering up a home and a meal for someone without somewhere to go on Thanksgiving. If you choose not to participate because it would increase your sadness, then perhaps you may consider whether or not you’re also stealing the joy from friends and strangers who would otherwise enjoy your presence.
Most of us grow up learning not to steal money, not to steal items from stores, not to steal others’ possessions. But as we grow older, few of us consider what else we may be stealing – time, people, joy. Open up your mind this holiday season and consider how your actions benefit others as well as you. Practice asteya and gratitude, and your cheerfulness levels will increase significantly.
As a reminder, in light of the holiday this week, I’ve decided not to post a blog on Thursday.
Happy Thanksgiving Week!
Image credit: Nisha A
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