Honoring Abundance - The 3rd Yama: Asteya

Everything depends on our ability to sustainably inhabit this earth, and true sustainability will require us all to change our way of thinking on how we take from the earth and how we give back.

- Deb Haaland

Asteya, the 3rd Yama, is the principle of non-stealing, asking us to only take and receive what we need and what is freely given to us. Walking in the way of Asteya is humbling and liberating as we become aware of the abundances present in our lives, which leads us to gratitude and compassion and giving generously from our overflowing cup.

The most obvious application of Asteya is non-stealing in a materialistic sense. And while this is, of course, an important part of the practice we would withhold its endless possibilities by limiting ourselves to just this aspect.

So what are the different ways to approach this? Due to my limited lifetime and space in this blog, I am sharing just a small sample of how Asteya shows up most meaningful in my life.

Mindful breathing is one of the pillars of my daily practice as a student and teacher of yoga as well as a singer. Our breath is abundantly present as our quiet companion, continuously feeding us oxygen and life force.

We use our breath to speak and when, what, and how we say something is impactful and makes the difference between harming and healing (Ahimsa), lying and speaking the truth (Satya), stealing and non-stealing (Asteya). Often it is not easy to clearly make these distinctions as the true power of these practices reveals itself when we integrate them and allow one to emerge out of the other.

I recently attended a meeting where a group of us was asked to share a statement regarding a specific matter. We had knowledge of this assignment for weeks and thus plenty of time to prepare. During the meeting, about half of us stayed within the 2-3 minute timeframe we had been asked to honor, while the other half exceeded this limit, some taking more than twice as long.

One way to look at this is to point out that those going beyond the time limit were stealing everyone else’s time and therefor not observing Asteya.

However, in this particular case, our statements were of a personal matter, exposing us as vulnerable and emotional at times.

As I noticed my disgruntlement about the varying speaking times slowly but surely rising up, I turned to my breath, which allowed me to hold space for the stories we were sharing and honoring that some of us just needed this space and time to share and be heard.

We can probably all identify situations, where we have taken up more time than was given to us. When we take a closer look we will most likely see that in some of these instances we indeed did steal time from others, whereas in other cases this may have been a necessary act of abundance to bring forth truth and avoid or reduce harm in some way.