Working with a different yama each week has been far tougher than I ever thought.
It feels like each one is showing me yet another way in which I create suffering from myself. Problem is, the patterns of behaviour are so subtle and so ingrained that perceiving them is one thing, changing them is another.
Asteya, or non-stealing, has shown up in all kinds of unexpected ways for me.
Far more than just refraining from stealing material items, Asteya also means not taking that which is not offered. Tricky double negative there, but if it hasn’t been offered, hands off. And that includes taking time, energy, feelings, thoughts or ideas…
Laura Cole of Exploring Yoga with Laura also defines Asteya in this way:
It’s not looking outside of ourselves for things, other people or situations to bring happiness to us.
Guilty. As charged. I’ve spent my entire adult life looking for relationship to make me happy. And I often attempt to take love, affection, attention and energy from my partner when it’s not freely offered. This never ends well. But thanks to studying Asteya in-depth this week, at least now I can name what I’m doing, and understand why it creates drama.
This has been one of the biggest patterns in my life, and had some of the most disastrous effects. Man have I suffered because of it, and now I see it was all my fault in the first place. Doh! Makes me wish sometimes that as a young child I was given to a Master for education in life. Would’ve made things so much easier along the way… but life’s not quite like that is it?
The heartening aspect of realising that I’ve been behaving in this way is that I can stop. And I am. In a stop/start kind of way – it’s hard to break a pattern of a lifetime. Might take a few weeks. In the meantime, I’m caught in this painful gap of knowing what I’m doing that’s creating suffering for me and those I love… which can then create self-loathing because I know it’s all my fault. Yikes! Gotta be careful of that piling more shit onto old shit… so again it’s working with the power of forgiveness and the power of kindness.
Thankfully, in the stopping, life is again shifting sightly. I can sense empowerment rising from within, the same way it did when I started acknowledging the emotional truth of my life (yes, it did hurt when my parents broke up, enormously!).
When behaviour is motivated by Asteya, it’s coming from a place of victimhood and feels completely disempowering. It feels bloody awful… but it’s easy to get he awfulness created by the motivation of action confused with the awfulness of not getting what you want. There in lies the rub… and it’s therefore easy to blame the people and circumstances for the awfulness for not making us happy… but it’s our own behaviour pattern of victimhood and disempowerment that feels so bloody awful. Get it?
Attempting to take what is not offered is part of being a control freak too I guess – trying to control and people and circumstances around us in order to be happy, or in order to not feel pain. If only that person would just behave like that… then I’d be happy. If I can just believe that my parents splitting up is for the best, then it won’t hurt.
Ha! I can almost hear life laughing at me…
So now, observing Asteya is requiring letting go. Could be the refrain for my life right now… let go, let go, let go. Let go of controlling my partner, let go of wanting more love, more affection, more attention, more, more more. Just let go damn it! Accept what is and watch the space that arises from that place… the sense of empowerment as one realises one does have choices…
But it ‘s hard. And I don’t want to sometimes. I can feel myself get angry, and sulky, and frustrated, and mad. None of which helps at all. So I’m back to letting go… of the anger, and sulking, and frustration, and madness.
It’s having results though – right where you’d expect it to, on the yoga mat.Letting go of old emotional trauma, letting go of old emotional patterns, letting go of old control tricks… well it’s opening up my body so fast I almost feel like I’m bendy-er now. There are even some moments in time when I feel… relaxed. They’re still fleeting, and it doesn’t take much in the old home life to through up my defenses again, but hey, I’m working on it.
All this hard work on the yamas is also finally breaking old patterns of behaviour which have been going round and round and round for years in many relationships creating much suffering. I’ve also been helped enormously by Sonny Chin, who I saw again last week. His level of understanding, perception and ability to heal is extraordinary, and I’m very grateful to be working with him right now. Yoga is an amazing tool for helping us transform, and it often works best in concert with other tools and support like energy healers, counseling, acupuncture, massage, and psychotherapy.
There are so many other aspects of Asteya that I haven’t even touched on here, like the way we approach our yoga practice – being mindful that we’re not coming to out mats with a sense of entitlement. That is, expecting to do difficult postures without putting in diligent, consistent practice. Or envying other students’ practice. Or wanting your teacher to recognise you as special, or different from other students, or to give you more attention.How do we take what isn’t offered in yoga class?
I also haven’t looked at the way in which Asteya applies to our treatment of the Earth and resources – our inclination to buy multitudes of shoes, hand bags, clothes and even yoga pants. How much does the Earth freely offer us for our needs?
What about you – what comes up for you in your life when you start diligently applying Asteya to it?
Next week I’ll be looking at applying Brahmacharya to my daily life... not quite sure how to translate that into English yet… need to do some study first!
Read the first articles in this series here: