Welcome back to Meditation Monday. I feel like I’m running on empty today after my long weekend. I got in early this morning and then got up early with the boys. I got in a nice long (4 mile) meandering walk with a couple of friends and their little ones. By this evening I was feeling so worn out that it was left overs for dinner and some snuggling on the couch with my tiny guys before I sent them to bed. There is no “catching up” on sleep with two kids under the age of 4, no matter how much I wish it were an option. And this got me thinking about the third yama: asteya or non stealing.
Gates takes so little time in the meditations book talking about this subject (3 days), but he does note one important aspect of the study of this yama. Life is about choices; choices of attachment or choices of faith. It is very similar in nature to one of the ten commandments, but goes even deeper than the traditional definition: not to steal someone’s stuff. In yoga we note that stealing from others includes stealing their time and emotions; not to take anything that is not freely given. Asteya asks us to be contented with what we already have and not to ask, “What do I need?”, but rather to find self-sufficiency and say, “What do I already have?”
This weekend I went to DD and ordered a pumpkin donut as they only come once a year. However, in my bag there were two pumpkin donuts. If I were truly practicing asteya I would have tried to return the second donut. It’s the kind of thing I usually do and is a trait I picked up from one of my grandfathers. However, I was in a hurry and I let the external world dictate my choices instead of acting from the heart. I kept the extra donut and eventually ended up tossing it. This made me feel extra guilty. Not only had I taken something that wasn’t mine, but then I wasted it as well. Asteya also teaches us that wasting is stealing from those who could have used those resources.
Every time that you toss out food, run the water while you brush your teeth, etc you are using up precious resources, giving into a lifestyle of abundance, and detaching from your moral core. It allows you to lose focus and look for satisfaction in the external world instead of from within. We become selfish and self-serving. One of the bloggers over at Green Mountain wrote this the other day that is also very relevant to the practice of asteya.
I told my students, the week that we covered this yama, that the moment that we emotionally unload on someone, without asking first if they have the time or emotional capacity to handle our problems as well as their own, that we have stolen from them. I feel like that goes for asking anything of our friends and family. Before we ask someone to help out with our burdens, do we consider how it will change their life? Do we think of others before ourselves? And, in turn, how often are we stealing from ourselves?
So, this brings me back to my original thoughts. How often do we purposefully overload ourselves with tasks that steal from us things like energy, sleep, and calm? How often do we choose to do things that waste our time instead of enjoying the real pleasures in life? I feel sleep deprived, but from all of my own choices. And in being sleep deprived I am stealing from myself again in that I could not fully enjoy the day with my kids. Then I stole from them because they didn’t have 100% of Mom today.
But I have the option tonight to sleep and to wake up tomorrow and be fully present. I have the chance each day to think before I dial the phone and unload on someone. I have the ability to be preservative of nature’s abundance and to live minimalistically so that I don’t overuse. And I have the power within me to make the world a better place by being a better me.