‘Tis the season of giving, but I’m thinking about stealing.
It was a Thursday in late November. I walked in to teach a noon yoga class that I was subbing for one of the owners of The Yoga Pod. I had planned on using the topic of Stealing as the theme, or what are often referred to as Dharma Talks. These are spiritual or philosophical concepts woven into the foundation of the class. The word “dharma” comes from the Sanskrit root dhri, meaning to “uphold” or to “sustain.” From this perspective, the best way to think of dharma is to say: that which upholds or sustains the positive order of things: the nation, the community, the family and ultimately even the universe. The way I come up with these topics is to sit quietly, dare I say, in meditation, with my full focus on remaining open for inspiration, and see what comes. Stealing is one of the yamas, and its complement, niyamas; represent a series of “right living” or ethical rules within Hinduism and Yoga.
Yama means “self-restraint, self-control, and discipline.” They are the moral compasses for behaviors to avoid or resist. The niyamas, on the other hand, advise what we shall do.
Asteya, or non-stealing, is the third yama (non-harm is first, truth/avoiding falsehood second).
There are all kinds of things we steal… time, attention, steal from the moment by living in the future/past, a candy bar, someone else’s boyfriend, just to name a few.
The Internet is full of statistics about theft: stats on shoplifting, employee theft, and employee time theft. It covers the gamut from famous people such as Lindsey Lohan, accused of stealing jewelry and clothes, to destitute people, such as a woman named Mary Jones, who was hanged in Europe in 1771 for shoplifting a piece of linen to clothe her baby. Clearly, there’s something we want, along with a void… what are we trying to fill?
As an adolescent, I stole numerous things: my sister’s miniskirt, Laffy Taffy, the charms out of Lucky Charms cereal, and my roommate’s sweater. I was eternally thirsty for things that were not mine. I continually believed that material things could fill a deep and empty spiritual well within me. Through the practice of yoga, and the integration of the yamas and niyamas into my life, I have the opportunity to live in the abundance of a continually replenished ‘spiritual well’.
I’m grateful that I no longer feel the urge to take things that aren’t mine. That said if you have a cool looking water bottle, it’s best to keep it in your bag.