Could you imagine if we greeted each other this way? Could it be possible to feel a sense of compassion and contentment even it times of challenge and division?
In the third week of the Hatha & Yamas we practiced Asteya. The literal meaning of asteya is non-stealing. There are of course the obvious ways of stealing; material things, someone’s relationship, their ideas and our natural resources. But there are also the not so obvious and more subtle ways that we do in our lives and to others.
On reflection of this I had to take quite a bit of time to really look to myself of how I do this. I know that I learned this as a child; do not take things that do not belong to you. In the world we live in today there is so much division and as I reflect there has always been something we are divided on. After all we are all just human, and sometimes we take more than we need.
We all know that pang of jealousy and how truly awful it feels! But studies show that when we put more time into feeling happy instead of judgement, envious and jealous of what others have we can lead a life that is not filled with depression, anxiety and stress related illness. That sounds pretty good to me!
I have an amazing life, yet I still struggle or as I decided to say “live” with mental illness. I began to understand through trusting in the practice of yoga that I was stealing my own happiness by worrying about the future and brooding over the past. I would worry about things that hadn’t even happened but in my mind it felt like it had. I was wishing for things and when they did not happen the exact way I wanted I would feel resentful and disappointed. Welcome to the “survival mind!”
I would let other people, situation, environments and experiences impact my happiness. I was gripped by old memories and then fell into an overwhelming downward spiral of guilt, fear and sadness. I alone and my way of thinking was taking away the opportunity to notice the joy around me and living in the moment.
In the yoga world we know that there is a place of transformation and freedom by having a spiritual practice of yoga and meditation. In a society which is relentless of creating this sense we always need more. More Facebook friends, more likes, more shoes and yes even more lululemon yoga pants! So what if we asked ourselves just because everyone is doing this, or just because it is human nature is it helpful?
There is a wonderful podcast by Tara Brach which speaks to this called; The Blessing of Enough. Discovering contentment in daily life. I have linked it below with the Asteya yoga sequence. The sense of contentment and togetherness forms the foundation or basis of Asteya. Look at minimalism movement, it compels is to ask ourselves, “Why the heck do I have so much stuff?” Tara speaks about how we block our contentment and part of that is the survival brain.
The survival mind gets fixated on the problem and the negative. Did you know that negativity is a “symptom” of depression? I didn't, I could not understand why I thought so differently from others. Tara Brach asks us to take time to pay attention to where our attention goes. The mind can easily seek out constantly what is going wrong or what will go wrong. The survival mind shapes our mind, but … the good news is you can change it and yes like yoga it is a practice.
Asteya is very present in our lives now more than ever, with the division of people wanting to be vaccinated and those who don’t. Our leaders have created a division with the way it is rolled out, but ultimately we all want what is right for us. A choice to decide, with reasonable guidelines but instead there is a rise in judgement and a divide. We need to feel that it is our choice and not a demand on our already demanding lifestyle’s.
I come back to that same statement that was posted on The Art of Living. “ It is natural for all of us to be judgemental after all it is human nature. However just because it is human nature it does not mean it is helpful.”
A scientific study proves that living and working on being non-judgmental lowers your levels of depression, anxiety and stress related illness. I too, constantly have to work on this, but with compassion and kindness. This beautiful poem feels like the perfect way to end this blog.
Enough. These few words are enough. If not these words, this breath. If not this breath, this sitting here.
This opening to life we have refused again and again until now.
David Whyte from Where Many Rivers Meet
Asteya Yoga Practice: With Georgina. https://www.tummee.com/yoga-sequence/oT2OC
Tara Brach Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/tara-brach/id265264862?i=1000532633713
Study on Judgment: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12671-010-0023-4