Two Ways You’re Stealing From Your Friends and Colleagues

The first limb of yoga (I explained yoga and how the exercise part fits into a broader philosophy in a previous post) is the Yamas. There are five of them: Ahimsa (nonviolence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non stealing), Brahmacharya (abstinence) and Aparigraha (non hoarding, non coveting). Together they constitute the moral commandments of yoga. Intellectual curiosity motivated me to study yoga philosophy, what I didn’t expect was the immediate, significant shifts in my behavior and more importantly — overall happiness.

The third yama, Asteya, has arguably had the most significant impact. Non stealing. Digging deeper, it means only taking what we need, or what’s an appropriate allocation. Not wasting. Otherwise we are stealing from others.

What are some of the little things we all do that would be considered violations of Asteya? Being late. We agreed to meet someone somewhere at a certain time, they stopped what they were doing to be there on time, but we didn’t. Being late also violates Satya, truthfulness. We committed to be somewhere at a certain time and then we didn’t follow through. Yoga has also made me more aware of the habits that create agitation and this is probably the biggest one. I get stressed out trying to get out the door, it stresses my kids out and we downward spiral together, I feel bad I’m late, I drive faster than I should, and all for what? Usually nothing important. Nowadays trying to break my habit of being late is probably my most significant “off the mat” practice.

Interrupting or talking too much and not letting others have space to speak their mind are other prevalent violations of Asteya. So many of us extroverts, with natural strong personalities, just talk more than we should. I practiced this while in my yoga teacher training. I’d hold my question or comment until we were ready to change gears; often times someone else asked the same thing I would have, and doing so gave them an opportunity to contribute. In group exercises where I’d typically wind up taking on a facilitating role, I’d make sure the quieter people were prompted to chime in. I bet almost universally those of us in leadership positions can work on this one.

Some other common, Asteya unfriendly behavior: copying, taking credit for other’s ideas and efforts, being an energy vampire, seeking attention, being needy, taking advantage of others, being distracted (by your phone perhaps?) when you’re with others or in a meeting, ordering too much food, wasting resources. The list goes on. Bringing awareness to this yama showed me the subtle ways I take more than I need and by virtue of that, am less thoughtful to others than I could otherwise be.

So let’s be late a little less, and let others talk a little more. And put that phone away and give your friends and family the attention they deserve. I promise it’ll make you happier along the way.

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