The Eight Limbs of Yoga: An 18-week mini-course
WEEK THREE: ASTEYA
Abiding in generosity and honesty, material and spiritual prosperity is bestowed.
– Sutra II.37
Most of us are not thieves in the typical sense, but upon a closer look, you might find small but significant ways that you steal from yourself or another in your daily life. This may include stealing time, energy, feelings, thoughts or ideas.
I have found the stealing of time to be most easily overlooked by not honoring our commitments to appointments. How many times have you made others wait due to your lateness?
My Iyengar yoga teacher, Richard Schachtel once taught me this. “To be early is to be on time. To be on time is to be late. To be late is to be unacceptable.”
That lesson woke me up to my own habitual lateness realizing my resistance to being early. And really, how many times can we truly arrive exactly on time?
Always squeaking out another five minutes to do something else before I set forth to show up for a class or meeting left me arriving, most often, a few minutes late. Though I was present in body this lateness did not allow me to be completely present in mind until well into the allotted appointment. Recognizing that arriving early offers the space to settle in and focus from the start of any meeting has inspired me to avoid stealing time away from the chosen exchange.
The practice of Yoga teaches us the importance of presence; being fully attentive to all that arises in the moment. Through our presence we can offer a generous amount of attention to the situation at hand. How easily we can be distracted by our own thoughts, worries, or judgements while partaking in any event. This prevents us from being alive in that moment and steals away from the experience.
When involved with others, especially in conversation, if our mind is wandering, this too is an act of stealing away energy and or even emotional empathy from someone in need of being heard. And we all have a need to be heard. Won’t you agree?
Being generous with our time means letting go of expectations of how things should be according to our own habits and rhythms. When in the company of others, how willing are you to let go of your own timeline? Do you find yourself watching the clock? Or, worse yet, checking your text messages? Perhaps you tend to constantly compare a situation to your own preferences. Can you reflect on how this attitude may steal away from a new opportunity, a fresh outlook, or a clearer perspective of someone else’s ideas?
Last weekend, while visiting my daughter and her best friend in their new Los Angeles home, I allowed myself the experience of fully dropping into their world. Setting my intention on Asteya (non-stealing/generosity), the gifts of this teaching unfolded before me as I let go of my own preferred rhythms and immersed myself in the creative, spontaneous flow of two 21 year old artists. And though I did decline the late night potluck that had them returning at 4:00 am, I did share many late hours and mid morning sleep ins, allowing plans to shift spontaneously, listening more than I spoke, and chipping in to help where requested.
This became the experience that every mother would love… being the fly on the wall observing the uninterrupted life of her child. Witnessing my daughter without judgment or comparison to my way of doing things was the sweetest experience of non-stealing I could ask for. Realizing that my good intentions of motherly advice could diminish the uncensored expression of her creative thoughts, I let go and settled into giving her my time
Nischala Devi’s translation of the third yama is this, “Abiding in generosity and honesty, material and spiritual prosperity is bestowed.” Following this experience of Asteya, I feel spiritually abundant through the honest exchange of love and respect.
How do you find yourself stealing away from the fullness of the present moment?
In what small ways can you expand your generosity on a daily basis?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. And I promise to read your words with my full attention.