Asteya: Chapter 3 of Yamas and Niyamas for “Normal” People
Ok before we get started, I owe you an apology: I completely disappeared during the summer (when I was studying for the Illinois bar exam, which I passed thank you God!), and I missed you all very much. I’m so sorry. Let’s try to pick up where we left off, shall we?
Asteya goes beyond not wanting things that belong to other people; it means not hoarding things and not obsessing over things that you don’t have.
So here’s how we do this in practice: Each time that I see this particular pair of Louboutins, I drool over it. (Ok, who am I kidding, I really mean 99% of Louboutins.) So if I see someone with a pair of Louboutins, asteya tells me that I should not want to trip that woman and steal her shoes. And I should not secretly want her to trip and fall in them so I can convince myself that she doesn’t belong in them anyway. And if I ever manage to buy a pair of Louboutins, I shouldn’t keep them in a glass box and not wear them. And I shouldn’t buy several more pairs of Louboutins and keep them in little glass boxes, and rejoice over my Louboutin museum.
Even more true for me is to avoid coveting, hoarding, and obsessing about food. Have you ever had the most amazing hot dog with cheese and mustard and onions and fries that were the perfect balance of not soggy and crisp-but-not-burnt? And then they were so delicious you wanted to go back to have it again the next day? And maybe the next day? Have you ever decide that one BoSa donut would be amazing, but two would be doubly amazing? No? Seriously, it’s just me? Ok fine…
No coveting, no hoarding, no obsessing.
The tricky thing about asteya is that you can take it (like anything else) to an unintended extreme: “Well, if I’m not supposed to want what I don’t have, then why should I bother going to work this morning? I don’t have that money yet and I don’t need it!” I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that’s not exactly what was intended. I don’t think so.
I think it’s fantastic to be ambitious, to set goals, and to want nice things. But I think incorporating asteya into our ambition would instruct us to treasure and appreciate what we presently have first. (“Thank you, God, for giving me the opportunity to go to law school and to be living my dream everyday.” ) After that, by all means, set goals for yourself. (“Dear Father, I would like to be debt free and to be able to buy my husband a Patek Philippe. Thanks, I love you, bye.”)
And most importantly, in the spirit of incorporating non-harming into everything we do, asteya shows us how to love and appreciate ourselves for who we are in this moment, while simultaneously appreciating our capacity to be even more, and do even better than we are right now.
Which means, stop wishing that woman would trip in the shoes you’re envying.