Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Stop Stealing from Yourself - Asteya

Asteya, one of the ethical practices of yoga called Yamas or constraints, is the practice of non-stealing. Now most of us grew up learning that stealing from others is not okay.  We learned at a young age when a playmate or sibiling took a beloved toy, how upsetting it feels to have something taken from us.  I'd call this a basic practice of Asteya, stealing in the physical world.  What Asteya really invites us to take a look at on a deeper, self-transformation level is all the ways we emotionally and energetically steal from others and ourselves.

When I first read Debora Adele's book "Yamas and Niyamas," (which I highly recommend), the first practice I tried that she suggests in her book was to notice stealing other's stories or 'one -upping'.  I thought this was an interesting concept and could think recognize times when others do this to me,
but I wondered how much I did it to others.  Stealing another's story is when someone shares something about their lives and we end up 'one upping them' by jumping to our own story, whether it's positive or negative.  An example would be this: You share with me that you just had a horrendous time driving in a winter storm and right after you're finished, I immediately tell you about my most horrendous time driving in a winter storm.  It may seem innocent, but how does it make you feel?  For me, when this happens, I feel shut down, unheard, invalidated, and even that my experience doesn't really matter. I find when I'm around others that do this often, I stop sharing about myself.  It leads to feeling disconnected.

Practicing this exercise has helped me (though I'm far from perfect) to just listen and let go of my own story I'm reminded of, to be present for my friend.  In the end, my story is just that, a story that I had long forgotten and sharing it doesn't really make all that much of a difference, except that is steals from another.  I believe that we jump in with our own stories because we feel connected due to a similar experience, but in the end our sharing ends up cutting off that connection.  Are there other ways we can convey the connection we feel instead of interrupting with our own story?

The longer I've been practicing the spiritual path of yoga, the more aware I've become of all the layers of how I steal from myself that is ultimately fueled in my own fear of not being ___ enough.  (And the more time I have under my belt in working with others, I realize this fear or a similar version of it, is at the heart of all of most of our suffering).  A few years ago, I was taking a walk in the spring, watching birds doing their thing along the path.  It hit me, these birds aren't sitting around wondering, "Is my wingspan big enough, are my feathers sitting just right, did I lay that grass down for my nest in just the right spot, or am I good enough parent?"  They just do what comes naturally and instinctually.  So do all the plants starting to sprout and the clouds moving across the sky and the insects buzzing around.  I realized I'm the one actually creating, "not enough," which creates self-doubt.  This realization has helped me to practice grounding back into the present by just looking out at nature. Looking at nature helps remind me how to be in the present and in the present I can connect to "I am enough."  What helps you connect back to the present and remember "I am enough?"

Another personal layer of 'not enough' came to my awareness recently.  As suggested by my teacher, I practiced talking to myself in the mirror. When I noticed my mind 'freaking out' (racing thoughts all And, really being honest with myself in this way, I was able to meet the actual issue at hand, feeling totally incompetent, head on to deconstruct the obviously false story my fear had concocted. Within a couple minutes I felt relief, like air being released from a balloon.  This all happened right before bed and I actually slept great that night!
the sudden, ruminating on one topic over and over) one evening, I decided to try something new to practice 'being with it.'  I went into the bathroom, looked at myself in the mirror, and started to have a conversation with myself, just like I would with someone I'm working one on one with.  I was shocked by the horrible words that came out of my mouth to describe myself.

These two examples are about how, without even knowing it, the habits, conditionings and beliefs from our life can keep us stuck, limited, and not living our dreams.  I truly believe that most of the mental health issues in our world today come from this self-stealing energy of "not enough" and our behaviors that increase stress in our lives come from trying to avoid looking at the pain of this belief system for fear it will engulf us.  The irony is that it engulfs us if we do not start to courageously look at it and start dealing with it. The very thing we are actively trying to control ends up becoming a reality.

The emotional and energetic stealing we do to others is actually another way we are trying to prove we are enough and avoid the feelings of 'not enough'.  If we can't stop stealing from ourselves, we won't stop stealing from others.

Here are three Asteya practices in daily life  that helped me in the examples above:

1. Take time to go for walks in nature to be with nature, watching it and expecting it will teach you something.  This is not the same as going into nature to exercise, like running, biking, skiing.  This is
more slow, with lots of pauses, noticing the small wonders in nature.  Remember, everything we experience in this life is an opportunity to funnel through what is not truth and what is TRUE. Nature just keeps doing its thing no matter what state of mind we are in at any given moment.

2. Go to a mirror and start talking to yourself like you would a best friend.  Be honest with what you are really thinking so you can face that fear full on.  I think this is like journaling on steroids.  Looking yourself in the eye is powerful.  This practice is especially important for those of you who, like me, are in a 'caring for others' profession.  Take time to care for yourself!

3. Start paying attention to your reactions to everything!  Asteya challenges us to stop blaming and making excuses for our behaviors and start taking responsibility.  We alone are in charge of creating change in our lives - the good, the bad, and the ugly.  You get angry and yell at someone. Get curious about that reaction. "Why was I so angry? Why? Why?" Keeping asking why and I guarantee you'll connect to the deeper reason, which has nothing to do with the other person.

It's a process, it will take time...lots of time and practice, so let go of trying to be something you aren't and slowly you will be come the most amazing you. I like this acronym for fear: Face Everything And Rise.  Use fear and all the uncomfortable feelings as guides to where you need to look in your life for the stealing you do and that's exactly where the change process begins.  The only way out is through.

Remember, always be kind to yourself as you become aware of the painful parts of the self. We all have these parts and they can be some of our greatest teachers.  Thank these parts!

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