When I was six years old, I was in the checkout lane at the grocery with my mom. She was busy loading groceries from the cart onto the conveyor belt while I was busy checking out all the tempting candy, all of which was at eye level for me. I wanted the gum. The smell of the Hubba Bubba was intoxicating. I had to have it. I knew my mom would say no. I may have even asked and was told no, though I don’t recall now. I wanted that gum badly enough that I stole it.
Doing something I knew wasn’t right was exciting and scary. In my little body, chemicals surged through my veins, more intoxicating than the delicious fruit scent of my newly acquired gum. We exited the store, loaded the groceries and ourselves into the car, and I opened my new gum.
My mom looked down at me and asked what I was chewing. “Gum,” I replied. “Where did you get that?” she asked. I told her. I had no idea she could move that fast! Within what felt like a blink of an eye, we were both out of the car, me being dragged by the arm, now in tears- partially fear based, but mostly shame based- back into the store. She walked me up to the manager. I had to tell him what I did and apologize. The man was trying not to laugh while I was dying of embarrassment. I received a punishment on the way back out to the car. I spent the ten minute ride home trying to figure out how to never have to go in that store again.
Asetya is a Sanskrit word for non-stealing. It is one of the yogic principles called yamas, or “things to avoid” in order to live right. While my experience of shoplifting at age six is an obvious example, the concept of asetya is much deeper and addresses some very unconscious, yet insidious actions that many humans engage in regularly.
I believe the deepest is stealing of our soul Truth, meaning we discount our deepest knowing of who we are, our purpose, and our gifts. In all the ways we play small, hide behind excuses, act a victim, engage a scarcity mentality of “not ___ enough”, we are stealing from the Truth of who we are at our essence. These thoughts form beliefs which lead to judgments, both of ourselves and others. When we extend this outward, we steal the Truth of others essence.
Stealing time is another interestingly, often unconscious action. From “I’ll just hop on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram” or “I’ll just check my email” or spending hours in front of a video game, tv, or book rather than engaging in relationships, your purpose or passion, or the richness of living. Numbing yourself through food, alcohol, sex, or drugs is another form of stealing time. Worrying about the future and avoiding the past steals from the present moment.
Then there is the stealing from yourself and the world. Worrying about the future and avoiding the past steals from the present moment. Worrying about what others think or living for someone else is stealing time from your life. Every time you hide behind the excuses and limiting beliefs, you are stealing from yourself. All of us are afraid of rejection. When we believe that we are not good enough, we hide behind the fear of rejection and undermine everything that we do. We steal from our work and we steal from the world waiting for us to show up with our unique gifts, skills, and passions.
Asetya isn’t just about not stealing the pens and post-it notes from the office. Nor is it about not stealing as a moral compass. It goes so much deeper into how we show up fully in the world. It goes into how we show up in our relationships, careers, communities, and even our health. It’s how we show up mentally, physically, and emotionally in each moment; fully present. Even when it is hard and does not necessarily feel good. To do anything else would be stealing from the moment, the experience, others and ourselves.