The season is just beginning and I’ve already lost count of the number of people who have said, “I hate the holidays!” It’s a good thing our yoga practice makes us perfectly balanced human beings. Right? Whatever. Family obligations, cultural expectations, end-of-year work deadlines – there’s no shortage of things to make even the most grounded of yogis lose their you-know-what.
Yoga doesn’t make us perfect but it does offer tools to help navigate life’s twists and turns. This holiday season, I’m studying Asteya, the yoga practice of non-stealing, as one way I can learn to cope better. Because, yes, I steal.
I’m not suggesting I’m the Grinch, pinching gifts from the Whos down in Whoville. The principles within Asteya would tell you, however, that I am a very accomplished thief. Yes. I can steal with the best of them.
When we begin to examine Asteya, as Deborah Adele does in her book, The Yamas and Niyamas, we understand stealing in different ways. The following two examples, stealing from others and from us, can be especially active during the holidays:
Stealing from Others isn’t limited to items. It includes comparing ourselves to others to make us more important than they are, not paying attention to them, and discounting them.
Self-reflection: What am I doing to make someone else feel put down? Is there someone not getting my full attention because I’m busy with holiday demands? Do I engage in conversations to “one up” everyone with how busy I am?
Stealing from Ourselves includes denying our true potential by placing unreasonable demands and expectations on ourselves or tying our identities to accomplishments.
Self-reflection: How many extra things do I try to do during the holidays and then feel stress and frustration because there’s STILL MORE TO DO? Which things am I willing to let go? Can I choose to sit down with a cup of tea and a good book sometime between now and the end of the year?
We can gift ourselves with a shift in focus from external demands to internal needs and wants. More self-reflection:
What are you stealing from yourself? Why?
What would it be like to make this your season of renewal rather than depletion?
How can you do even one less thing to feed the frenzy and substitute with one thing to bring you peace and calm?
Sounds hard? You’re afraid putting the focus on you makes you selfish? Actually, the opposite is true. Adele writes, “When we are engaged in the joy and challenge of building ourselves, we automatically serve the world rather than steal from it.” Practicing Asteya can help us get there.
Back to the Grinch. He changed his focus to serving the Whos rather than stealing from them. “And what happened, then? Well, in Whoville they say – that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day.”
Be good to you today. Namaste.