The third rule in the yamas is non-stealing, or asteya. Often when we think about non-stealing, the actual act of theft–stealing something from a store or from someone else–comes to mind. And yet, this focus on tangible objects is only a small part of what non-stealing involves.
Like my conversations on the other yamas, I like to think about this as not just what are we stealing from others, but also what are we stealing from ourselves? We can steal phyiscal objects from others, but we can also steal health, time, wellness, mental clarity, and even resources from those we’ve never met.
Non-stealing is a big topic. Here in the western world, it’s one we need to think about and grapple with daily, because each of our decisions has impacts we can’t even know about. Now, let me pause here and tell you I’m not talking about living in the woods, hidden away from the world. But what I am talking about is being consious and aware of making the best decisions we can, when we can.
It’s good to start with things we do in daily life. Do you take people for granted? Have you told someone you appreciate them or you love them lately? These simple acts can remedy the theft of appreciation, the theft of emotion that could happen when start to “assume” that others know we care about them or love them. Have you told yourself you love yourself and appreciate the hard work you’re doing? That same theft of appreciation happens to ourselves, too.
Let’s broaden the topic from there. Are you using resources wisely? Are there small things you can do to make an impact on the environment? If you’re able, can you work toward purchasing more fair trade goods? Do you patronize restaurants known for treating employees well, or stores that do. If you cannot, for any reason, then ensure that you’re being gentle with yourself. There are many reasons, such as location, mobility, access, and other socioeconomic barriers that keep people from, for example, being able to avoid big box stores. Like I said, non-stealing is a big topic and one with many nuances.
But it’s a good topic to think about. Are there ways you’re stealing from yourself or others, and what changes can you make to live more in alignment with this belief? Just remember, no one is perfect, and we’re all doing the best we can.