Asteya or non stealing, calls us to be generous to ourselves and others. Being generous with our selves does not mean indulging all of our desires but it asks us to really ask what we need and not to take more than we need. The more we have the more we have to worry about.

This week in our Yoga classes we discovered that practicing Asteya on the mat means being generous with our breath. And that sometimes means doing less in our poses so that the breath can flow more freely. Of course we continue to practice Ahimsa, non harm, and also Satya, by being honest with ourselves and not using more energy than is needed in a pose. I remember taking a class many years ago with a yoga teacher named Rod Stryker and he taught us be efficient in our practice by using the least effort but gaining the most benefit. I believe this follows the practice of Asteya. We always complete our practice with the chant Lokah Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu. This is a prayer that offers the benefits of our practice with all beings. As Saint Francis said” It is in giving that we receive.

When we live by the adage or mantra of “less is more” we simplify life and then have more time for ourselves to relax, to reflect and also to be present with others. When we allow the monkey-mind to live in the past or future, it steals the present moment. If we are living in fears and lies, our dissatisfaction with ourselves and our lives leads us to look outward, with a tendency to steal what is not rightfully ours. We steal from others, we steal from the earth, we steal from the future, and we steal from ourselves. We steal from our own opportunity to grow ourselves into the person who has a right to live the life they want.

We steal from ourselves with all of the demands and expectations we place on ourselves. This steals our own enthusiasm. All self-sabotage, lack of belief in ourselves, low self-esteem, judgments, criticisms, and demands for perfection are forms of self-abuse in which we destroy the very essence of our vitality. We are captured in a culture where our very identity is tied up with our accomplishments. In this rush to get to the next thing, we have left no time for ourselves to digest and assimilate our lives; this may be our biggest theft of all. We need time to catch up with ourselves. We need time to rest, to reflect, to contemplate and digest all of our experiences so that we can be more present with ourselves and others.


We steal from others when we feel a sense of lack or discontent with ourselves and then we compare ourselves with others. We steal from others when we judge them before we have even got to know them. If we feel jealous we may steal someone’s good moment or good mood because we are not feeling the same way. When someone is sharing some good news we may steal their moment by trying to one up them. We steal someone’s time by monopolizing the conversation and not letting them get a word in. Especially when we are angry we feel a need to make our point and we may not be able to even hear what the other is saying. To ensure peace in our mind is to not covet what belongs to another. Krishnamacharya said, “not only possessions can be stolen, but also time can be stolen from others. Do not gossip or indulge in idle conversation, thereby wasting others’ time”.

The greatest gift we can give another is our presence. Can you be fully present for someone no matter what the situation?. Whether they are happy or sad. We can be generous with others by lifting them up. Yogi Bhajan said “we can be forklift with others”. We can brighten another’s day by taking a moment to listen, to sincerely compliment them or to simply smile.

We steal from the earth every time we don’t appreciate what we have. Nothing on this physical plane does or can belong to us. To “own” something then, becomes a form of stealing. Imagine instead that everything in our possession as something precious that is on loan to us, and we are asked to care for it. Nonstealing implies more than not taking what isn’t ours. It is an inherent understanding that from the moment we are born, we are in debt to this gift called life. The ancient Vedic scriptures speak of taking nothing without giving something back, as a betrayal to the earth.. Before you buy something new, first ask if you really need it, and then in turn give something you have away. This is a great practice that I try to live by which helps tap into universal abundance.

We steal from the future when we don’t consider the affects of our actions. Native wisdom teaches to make decisions as if they mattered seven generations into the future. Deborah Adele said “we are an insatiable, collective, giant hole that we can’t seem to fill. The excess in our bodies, our calendars, our closets, are all signs that we are living as if there is no tomorrow and no one to live here after we are gone”. When we only focus on what we don’t have we lose our sense of gratitude for what we do have. Stop to appreciate the beauty of nature and the wonder of the seasons. Appreciate our ancestors who sacrificed so much for the future. We are now the caretakers of the earth to create a better future for all of our children. Our children are now faced with a huge mess to clean up. It is heart breaking but we can all make a difference right now by learning from the native wisdom and making decisions based on the future of our children.

Asteya asks us to get excited about the possibilities for our own life. When we attend to our own growth and learning in the area of our interests, we are engaged in the joy and challenge of building ourselves. From the fullness of our own talent and skill, we automatically serve the world rather than steal from it. When we don’t know what we want or we don’t have the courage to pursue it, we get sidetracked from our own dreams. This jewel demands that we become capable of stewarding what we ask for. Seek mentors and learn from people who have already accomplished what we are seeking. It is not accumulation of things that ultimately gives us satisfaction. It is to live the life we are meant to live. When we have the courage to live the life we are meant to live then a world of possibility opens to us.

When we take more than we need, we are, in effect, stealing. This is deeply entwined with consumerism. There are many reasons why we may continue to over buy things we do not need. Our need to emulate others, to indulge ourselves sensually, to escape feeling the reality of our circumstances, or to fill up a feeling of lack inside. It is deeply engrained in our psyche that we will overcome or even satisfy our unsatisfied mental state by something from the outside, which is ultimately not true. Ghandi said, “We are not always aware of our real needs, and most of us improperly multiply our wants and thus, unconsciously, make thieves of ourselves. One who follows the observance of Non-stealing will bring about a progressive reduction of his own wants. Much of the distressing poverty in this world has risen out of the breaches of the principle of Non-stealing”.

David Wolfe, a well known raw food activist, follows the ancient Taoist Immortals philosophy of renunciation, living with the Earth, discipline, as well as abandoning attachment to worldly pleasure, wealth, and reputation as a path to longevity and health. He says that having less is more and defines true wealth as a peaceful state of mind, abundant physical health, spiritual connection to source energy, emotional wellness, to have knowledge of oneself, knowledge of one’s environment and finding and following your mission in life. He also says wealth is found in serving others and it cannot be hoarded, only shared. True wealth is not created by what one has acquired, but by what one gives away. It is when you give that you truly receive. Just like Albert Einstein said “ The value of a man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable of receiving. We can cultivate Asteya by being generous, by letting go of what no longer serves, and by being content.

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