In Hatha Yoga there is a practice called Asteya, which means non-stealing. It invites us to become compassionately mindful of ways in which we might steal from ourselves, each other, and the earth. At first glance it may not feel important because we might not be stealing physical objects so we might wonder how it applies, but with contemplation its relevance unfolds.
There are many ways in which we might steal from others unintentionally, with or without malice. We might steal time by always being late, or attention by not truly listening, or credit for an idea that wasn’t ours. We might take from the earth and our grandchildren by taking more physical resources then we need.
What I’d really like to focus on today, is how we steal from ourselves. Some of the ways might be:
- comparing ourselves to others
- not appreciating our body for all it does
- pushing ourselves past our limits
-not breathing properly so we don’t have access to our life force energy
-not having compassion for ourselves when we are sick, recovering, grieving, or going through significant change
-not being present
Non-stealing or any of the yoga practices are not meant to shame or judge us. Sometimes when learning mindfulness we might try to do it perfectly but not only is that not the point, it’s impossible! We are human beings, to be human is to be imperfect and we will never be without imperfections. We are not practicing yoga if we are criticizing or shaming ourselves, we are not practicing mindfulness if we aren’t being compassionate. Through seeing the ways in which we steal from ourselves we can become more self-aware, gentle, and resourced.
A One Minute Practice
You might choose to set a timer for one minute after you read the instructions 😊
When we are recovering from complex or shock trauma it can be very challenging to be present. This one minute practice asks us just to acknowledge that we are safe enough in this moment, one breath at a time while giving ourselves the gift of being present one breath at a time. Our mind might come up with all sorts of reasons we can't be safe but this is just about this next one moment, one breath, one minute.
Sit comfortably. Notice your breath. Allow your breath to deepen so that you are getting enough breath but not so much that you are struggling or straining.
Come to the bottom of you exhale, where you feel your belly draw in and then slowly breathe in through your nose as though you were sipping through a straw, slow and even. Repeat. See if you can develop a deeper, smoother rhythm without strain.
As you are breathing, be present for one full cycle of breath, notice the inhale and the exhale. Do it again, one breath at a time and then the next, and then the next. Appreciating or noticing each breath as it comes. Thoughts and sensations will come but just be with your breath one breath at a time. Notice what it's like just to be present one without the pressure to extend it, starting over with each breath.
If the breath is not available just be with support of the ground underneath you one moment at a time. The support of the earth is here now, and now, and now, and now…