Days 12-13: Asteya is “Non-Stealing”

Cookies JarAsteya is one of five yamas in the Yoga school of Hinduism. The yamas (the “don’ts” of life) are the restraints we use alongside the five niyamas (the “do’s”) to bring about harmony, peace and enlightenment.

Stealing can happen through actions, speech or thoughts. We can “take up someone’s time,” “steal someone’s thunder,” or steal personal property. In a world that is so hungry for more-food, material possessions, emotional neediness, recognition-how can we practice more restraint with getting those needs met?

It’s funny that asteya would come up as this week’s topic in class, because on Tuesday, my expensive racing bicycle was stolen from my garage, along with my sense of home security. Someone left many other valuable items and took only my prize possession; it’s the bike I won a triathlon on, climbed Mt. Tam with and schlepped from SF to SD. The officer who came by said that is a clear sign of an inside attack. It’s hard to look at all of the maintenance people here everyday now and not feel a little suspicious… That’s what happens when we are stolen from: our sense of trust and honesty is warped and everyone becomes a potential hitman.

Just to add fuel to the fire, FB (yes, you) markets a $275 Whole Foods gift certificate scam on their advertising feed and for the first time, I fall prey. Too good to be true, right? So, it gets me thinking about all of this social media, the free credit cards, the rewards programs and the newsletters we sign up for in exchange for personal information. What are they all doing with it? Why is the new currency identity and how is it essentially being stolen from us daily?

A bike I can do without, but what about address, email, date of birth and name? Those are sensitive pieces of data that are now visible to whomever cares to find out. We are essentially selling ourselves short to money-hungry identity hackers who can market to us more things we don’t want.

How can we practice more restraint in order to protect our identities in this ever-increasingly insecure world? After all, it was my own desire to win a “free” $275 card that caused me to hand over sensitive info to a computer. My greed for free money caused me to get swept up in the advertising. Any form of advertising steals our sense of fulfillment and completion by planting thoughts of need or insecurity in order to make a sale.

This is not a lost cause. We can make conscious decisions to use judgement and not fall prey to marketers or get money “stolen” from us by buying things we don’t really want or need. Alternatively, we can walk away from a purchase and feel like we are getting exactly what we needed through that transaction. We can also choose to end conversations politely when we feel that the other party is taking away from us, rather than contributing to a mutually beneficial exchange; or, we can walk away from a conversation feeling even more complete than before, brimming with mutual love and appreciation.

This is the main premise behind asteya: give and receive with equal measure.

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