Yoga’s Acts Of Integrity (Yama): Part 3
Yama refers to ethics regarding the outside world, and therefore is particularly important in social contexts.
It comprises non-harm, truthfulness, non-stealing, moderation of senses, and greedlessness.
SEE ALSO: Understanding Vedic Astrology
3. Asteya — Not Stealing or Withholding
Literally, Asteya (pronounced “ah-stay-ah”) means “not stealing,” which is simple enough.
Asteya speaks directly to greed.
When we choose to embrace this value in our daily lives, it starts with simply not taking what doesn’t belong to us.
Looking deeper, at what motivates us to steal, we come closer to the inner spirit of Asteya.
Essentially, it is about withholding versus the ability to respond.
We steal (things, ideas, etc.) because we do not feel whole; when we do not feel whole we need to take from others and hold on to what we have.
Many people would consider Asteya a simple principle.
Of course you don’t steal — that’s criminal.
But how often are we confronted with a dilemma about withholding — money, material, information, love — and wonder what is right?
When we are financially pinched and others are getting rich from cheating us, when we have deep concerns about survival, we may find ourselves justifying acts of withholding or outright stealing.
We may not realize until later that we have diminished our innermost selves in the process.
When we cheat on our income taxes, lie on an application for a loan or a job, keep the wallet we found in the parking lot, or turn our face away from someone we love, our conscience throws up a warning.
Each act of straightforward honesty builds our integrity.
If we could see how these thoughts and behaviors change us — how the light of our souls increases or diminishes — our choices would be clear.
But we have all kinds of clever defenses against seeing the truth — defenses that help us maintain a convenient morality.
Nobody wants to be a fool or a “goody two-shoes.”
In our personal lives, Asteya is about choosing to be straightforward — to speak directly, to reveal ourselves, to ask for support or help when we need it.
It involves respecting our own and other people’s possessions, learning how to love others unconditionally, and how to help others fulfill their needs.
We meet our obligations, return the things we borrow, and clearly state our own conditions when we make agreements.
The straightforwardness — called rjuta in yoga — is of fundamental importance in bringing the body, mind, and spirit into harmony.
Parenting with Asteya
Teaching our children responsibility begins with what we do.
It is important that we make our struggles known to them, that we air our difficulties and dilemmas, that we allow our children to watch and participate with us in issues regarding honesty and straightforwardness.
It is important that they understand that morality is not a commandment that you follow or you don’t; rather, it is a constantly evolving aspect of our humanity, and a part of us that requires attention.
Our understanding of what it means to choose not to steal changes as we grow; we will make mistakes and change our minds.
Living with ethics is the process of being conscious about these choices, rather than simply reacting selfishly and impulsively.
Children can be taught, via stories, games, family discussions, and items in the news, the long-term consequences of cheating, stealing, or exploiting others.
They can be taught the process by which we come to decisions about what is right.
Opportunities appear every day to demonstrate to our kids how to live responsibly.
They can help with recycling, save their outgrown clothes for a shelter, participate in road cleanup days, and help search for lost pets.
They can be given age-appropriate household chores, with clear rules about how they are done, and clear, nonnegotiable consequences for not doing them (so chore time doesn’t turn into nagging and yelling sessions between kids and parents).
It is not healthy to force kids to carry too much of the load, but children can be taught how to cook simple foods, how to do the laundry, and how to take care of animals and younger siblings.
Praise and loving feedback instills in them a healthy self-regard and pride in their ability to be responsible.
Feeling that they contribute in an important way to the well-being of others, kids learn more readily and acquire social skills of cooperation and peaceful coexistence.
They are empowered to believe they can make a difference in this world.
Parents can easily, off-handedly, start age-appropriate conversations about Asteya with their kids. “What if. . .” is a perfect starting point.
Demonstrate Asteya by respecting your children’s belongings and personal space.
Allow them to have things that are unequivocally theirs, teach them how to take care of their things and to respect others’ belongings.
Parents sometimes require kids to “share,” when sharing is inappropriate for their age.
Seek good information about when it is appropriate to teach your children what sharing is, how it is done, and that it differs from stealing.
Kids must be able to consciously show loving kindness before they are able to share.
Asteya has to do with boundaries: our personal boundaries, the boundaries in our relationships, and the boundaries of society.
We all need to set limits, to choose what is healthy for us and what isn’t, and to learn to respect others’ limits.
When we steal from others or when we withhold, we deny these limits.
Boundary problems occur when they are either to rigid or nonexistent; healthy boundaries are permeable and lead to balance and a feeling of rightness.
Affirmation of Asteya
I take responsibility for every aspect of my life. I can set limits and I respect the boundaries set by others. I choose to joyfully accept my obligations to myself, others, and the Earth.
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