Asteya: A Contemplation

Asteya time

The first week in our focus on asteya or non-stealing we're paying attention to time and energy.

Consider for a moment if there are any ways that you steal time and/or energy from yourself and from others.

Now also think about the following:

Have you ever been late to an appointment, arrangement or meeting, whether with a professional, for business, or with a friend or family member? Have you ever stopped to consider that being late may be stealing time from the other person? Our most valuable asset is time, yet we often disregard other people's by being habitually late, wasting their valuable time that could've been spent on something important to them.

Have you ever phoned or text someone for help with something that could easily have been looked up on google? When we ask for people's help we are taking some of their time and energy. While many people are happy to assist, be sure that when you're seeking assistance that you're not simply stealing their time and energy for something that could easily have been solved with a quick search on the super-computer in your pocket.

Perhaps you steal time from yourself by being a serial procrastinator. We can spend a huge amount of time and energy thinking 'I should do this' or putting off tasks that we know we need to do. I think I could win an award for being the worlds best procrastinator so I speak from experience when I say that we really do steal time from ourselves by pondering upon, and putting off projects rather than taking action!

Finally we can also steal energy from ourselves by overusing it in places that don't need it, and not keeping enough for things that are important. For example, have you ever stayed up late mindlessly browsing the internet or watching TV when you know you need to wake early the next day? Does this steal energy from the following day? Have you ever pushed too hard in the gym, yoga studio or at work only to leave yourself with no energy for activities later in the day?

Our time and energy are both valuable, yet we often treat it as if it's the opposite. Even the accumulation of emails in our inbox and clothes in our closets deplete our time and energy as we find ourselves searching through them, sorting them, and taking care of them every day.

This week, consider where you can simplify your life to stop stealing yours and other people's time. Maybe simplifying your wardrobe would save time and energy in the morning. Perhaps reducing the amount of emails you receive could mean less time searching, filing and deleting. Finally, each time you schedule something, be realistic with how long it'll take, including prep and travel time, and make a commitment to not stealing other people's most valuable resource by being on time.

Are there any other ways that you'd like to commit to the practice of asteya regarding time and energy? 

An Introduction to Asteya

'To one established in non-stealing, all wealth comes.’ ~ Sutra 2.37, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.


During the month of June we're turning our focus both on and off the mat to the next yama; asteya which translates to non-stealing. As with many of the yogic practices, our initial reaction may be to assume that we have this one covered, I mean, we aren't guilty of stealing cars or robbing banks, right?! However with closer consideration we may find there are many ways that we steal both from ourselves and from others without taking any physical possessions. This yama (ethical principle) requires us to build upon the one before, satya/truth, as we need to be honest with ourselves in investigating where we may take or steal. Each week we'll be considering a different area of our lives through the lens of asteya, but for now, take a moment to think about following questions:

Have you ever borrowed something from somewhere or someone and not returned it?
Have you ever been on your social media or personal phone while at work? Have you ever been late to work?
Have you ever presented someone else's idea as your own, or taken credit for something you didn't do?
Have you ever copied music from a friend's CD or MP3?
Have you ever been on your phone scrolling while someone was talking to you, or while you were eating?
Have you ever been late to an appointment or meeting?
Have you ever overworked and found the next day you're too tired to enjoy the plans you'd made with a friend or family member?

Throughout the month we'll be stepping away from the assumption that stealing must be of a physical item and look at the more subtle ways that steya/stealing can happen in our daily lives.

Whether you're near or far, we look forward to sharing this practice with you!

Satya: Always Do Your Best

The final agreement in The Four Agreements, and our final week focusing on satya/truth is 'always do your best'.

In a perfection-seeking society this agreement can be one of the most liberating. This agreement requires the application of satya to discover and practice the truth every day. In the book Don Miguel Ruiz says; 'under any circumstances, always do your best, no more and no less. But keep in mind that your best is never going to be the same from one moment to the next.' I understand that if you're working on aircraft engines, or you're a doctor, nurse, surgeon etc, perfection is sometimes required! In this practice I'm referring to our every day lives – our yoga practice, routines, interactions with others, home-life, and 'perfection-not-required' work.

When applied in our yoga practice, always doing your best is the practice of the yama satya (truth) and the niyama svadhyaya (self-study).
We change day to day and our practice should reflect this. Some days we are well rested, energized or relaxed, other days we are tired, sick or frustrated. A 6am practice may look and feel very different to a 2pm, 6pm or 10pm practice. Our best on the mat is altered by our mental, emotional and physical state. Rather than stressing ourselves with an idea of perfection, it's important that we are kind to ourselves in our practice and commit to doing our best at that moment, knowing it's different day to day, and even hour to hour.

When it comes to activities off the mat, this agreement is equally as important. 'keep doing your best – no more and no less... If you try too hard to do more than your best, you will spend more energy than is needed and in the end your best will not be enough. When you overdo, you deplete your body and go against yourself... But if you do less than your best, you subject yourself to frustrations, self-judgement, guilt and regrets.'
'If you always do your best there is no way you can judge yourself. And if you don't judge yourself there is no way you are going to suffer from guilt, blame and self-punishment.'

When you make the commitment to doing your best, you can move out of a perfectionistic, results orientated mindset and find contentment in whatever arises, knowing that you have done your best.

This week, both on and off the mat, continue your practice of satya by noticing if you are doing your best. Do not be afraid to be truthful to yourself about the times you are not doing your best and be aware of how not doing your best makes you feel. Please also remember that your 'best' is not a set bar or goal; it changes day to day depending on your energy, emotions and physical body. Practice this agreement alongside self study and know and accept that your best today may not be the same as it was last week or last year. This will lead you towards the second niyama; contentment.

Satya and Internal Chatter

How often do we define ourselves by how we feel in any particular moment? How often does the internal chatter of our minds say 'I'm not good enough', 'I'm too fat/thin/short/tall/lazy/loud/quiet', 'I'm a bad person because I ...'. Worse, how often do we define ourselves on the judgments and words of others? 'she said I can't sing, it must be true' or 'they don't like my haircut; it must be horrible'.

When we define ourselves by our emotions and the words of others, we step out of the practice of satya/truth.

Why is it important to explore the truth? Take the example of being told that you can't sing. Maybe you really can't sing; perhaps that is the truth. Or maybe you can sing beautifully but the person that said those words had a headache in that moment and really meant to say 'please be quiet'. If we don't explore our truth and stand by it, we can allow the comments of others to become a belief in our minds and affect our internal dialog and future actions.

Some of the beliefs we have about ourselves are deeply rooted in things said to us as children, and others change day to day, almost moment to moment, depending on our experiences and interactions with others.

There is a phrase in sanskrit 'chitta vritti', which translates to 'fluctuations of the mind'. In order to begin calming the chitta vritti we must identify with the truth rather than with our ever changing emotions or the opinions of others. As we become firmly established in our truth we can be more confident and calm, rather than riding a rollercoaster of emotions.

This week, as we continue to focus on satya, practice being aware of the fluctuations of the mind. Notice if you have firm beliefs of yourself or others that may not be established in the truth and take the time to explore the truth. Become aware of how often you allow the words of others, or your own emotions to cloud your beliefs and lose sight of what is true for you. Set the intention each day to practice satya in your thoughts, words and actions both on and off your yoga mat.