The yama Asteya considers non-stealing or taking what is not freely given. This includes taking what belongs to another without permission, using something for a different purpose than it was intended for, or using something beyond the time permitted by its owner. I think it is safe to say that most people are not thieves and do not consciously steal as there are laws and penalties in place to prevent these actions. Socially it is unacceptable to steal. But consider the idea of taking too much. Is this a form of theft? Society promotes our separation from one another. The survival of the fittest and “dog eat dog” mentality creates constant competition to succeed in life by making money and consuming goods. Caught up in the rat race, the greed of taking more than we need is justified by the fact that we need to ensure our livelihood. We can make thieves of ourselves trying to fill all the lack created by the obligation to prosper and succeed. Generosity is challenged by the idea of getting ahead. When we see ourselves as separate we identify success with money, ownership, and attachment to things. Greed is perpetuated as we succumb to the story of the successful self. In his book Ascent of Humanity, Charles Eisenstein addresses this:
“Indulging it greed only exacerbates the underlying need, because enclosing more of the world into the domain of mine separates us all the more from the connected interbeingness for which we hunger.”
Taking more than we need may provide some feeling of security but perpetuates the need to keep taking. Generosity, charity, and love are ideals that can shift this pattern. Witnessing how interconnected we are with our communities and nature can provoke us to give back and help others. Opening the doors of generosity, benevolence and the practice of non-greed promotes a deeper connection with others. As humans this is something we all crave. The opposite action of stealing is giving. As individuals we are all blessed with amazing qualities, talents and passions. These are our gifts to share. Be the Gift.
Satya is the practice being truthful and honest in our thought, speech and action. On the surface this yama may seem straightforward but in reality it requires a constant observance and understanding of the changing nature of our relationships and the world.
The definition of truth is “the true or actual state of a matter” or “conformity with fact or reality”. Interestingly if matter and reality are in constant state of fluctuation and change truth will be relative to each circumstance and situation. So to grasp at the idea of truth or honesty our yoga must be a spiritual practice that is rooted in a constant exploration of the present.
I love the idea of a practice that doesn’t state right or wrong or a single path but gives an idea that is relative to the individual, community, culture and causation of our surroundings. Every person has an opinion and values developed throughout life. Satya challenges us to investigate our motives. In his book Yoga for a World out of Balance Michael Stone points out the connection between person and society
“From the time of our birth, we each respond not only in a personal sense to the precariousness of our human condition, but we are also the inheritors of delusive social institutions and shared meanings about the world. The same basic patterns we find in our minds and bodies are also found in the structure and function of our institutions.”
I like how Michael Stone challenges the reader to consider how contemporary society can warp our worldviews and potentially corrupt us into living untruthful lives. The social and economic pressures of modern life make us think that success, financial gain and consumerism is equivalent to life satisfaction but this is ultimately a lie. At our deepest core we yearn for love, community and compassion. Yoga practice, meditation, pranayama, and asana all bring us closer to our true needs rather than our conditioned desires. The yama satya prompts us to investigate our desires and how we can live aligned with our highest truth.
What does living honestly mean to you?