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Mary E. Vandenack: Asteya • Balancing Energy

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“In constantly looking outside ourselves for satisfaction, we are less able to appreciate the abundance that already exists. That is what really matters—our health and the riches of our inner life and the joy and love we are able to give and receive from others. It becomes difficult to appreciate that we have hot running water when all we can think about is whether our towels are color-coordinated. How can we appreciate our good fortune in having enough food to eat when we wish we could afford to eat out more often?” ~ Donna Farhi, author of “Bringing Yoga to Life: The Everyday Practice of Enlightened Living”

Over the last few months, I have been focusing on the yamas, the ethical rules within yoga to support right living. The third yama is asteya, which is translated as "non-stealing." While the concept of non-stealing may seem obvious, my studies the last several years have brought to my attention less apparent meanings. 

The simplest meaning of asteya is not taking that which does not belong to us. We often think of non-stealing in terms of material goods. That is, we should not take material items that belong to others. 

There are other types of takings, however. We may take too much of someone's time. We may rob someone of feeling good about themselves by injecting negative opinions. We might cut in line. We may arrive late.


The desire to have what someone else has stems from dissatisfaction with what we have. The more that we
can practice gratitude for what we have in our lives, the less we will feel a desire to have what others have. Cravings are all about our own sense of un-worthiness.

Gratitude can be difficult to practice at times. It is easy to be grateful when things are going well. It is far more difficult, but much more meaningful, to do so when there are many challenges in our lives.

The first four months of 2011 has been one of the most challenging periods I have had in many years. I found myself feeling the need for an “oxygen mask” and looking for it rather ungraciously. I realized that "this was the moment" in the sense that I have to decide whether I meant everything I have been saying or whether my words were just words.

I started with gratitude practice. Instead of noticing all that had gone wrong, I began to notice all that was right. I noticed and appreciated the support that I had built around me.  I expressed gratitude for the fact that my eyes could open at the beginning of the day and close at the end of it.


Let go of cravings. Cultivate a sense of self-sufficiency. Engage in activities that create support for yourself.


The concept of non-stealing applies not only to others but to ourselves. We often steal our own energy. Stealing from ourselves is as harmful as stealing from others. Eating poorly or being short of sleep are ways that we take from ourselves.
If we are not supporting our mind, body, and spirit in meeting their needs, we become without energy. Cravings set in.

Eating well and getting enough sleep can be a real challenge. We have busy lives with demands from many sources. When I reached burn-out several years ago, I developed the practice of creating a "Daily List.” My Daily List includes the basics that I need to do to care for myself each day. The list includes items so fundamental as caring for my teeth. The list also includes being in communication with at least one friend each day. If I am not regularly doing everything on my Daily List, I know that my life is out of balance and that my energy is draining. 


Using the resources of our planet carelessly is also a form of stealing. Admittedly, it can be inconvenient to be conscientious about recycling and other actions that honor our planet's resources. The actions are crucial to our own wellbeing and that of others. Start in some small way. Your actions will perpetuate.

Mary E. Vandenack, while a lawyer by profession, has studied extensively in mind/body areas of fitness and wellness. She is Yoga Alliance RYT-200, Power Pilates certified, ACE certified and has completed her Stott Pilates comprehensive studies, as well as a variety of work in nutriition.

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