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YAMAS: YOGA’S ETHICAL GUIDELINES FOR SELF-REGULATING

The movie “Mank” portrays a Hollywood scriptwriter in the 1930s and 1940s who was invited to write a script for the Orson Welles movie “Citizen Kane”. 

It was not an easy task for a number of reasons but he soon learned that it was the best work he had ever done. He requested screen credit but the agreement Welles made him sign gave Welles all the credit.

“Citizen Kane” was nominated for Best Picture in 1941 (but famously did not win), only winning for best original screenplay. Neither man attended the ceremony—they had parted acrimoniously. 

Have you ever faced a predicament of being the person taking something that is not yours or at the receiving end of something  taken away from you? Take credit when credit is not due to you or someone doing this to you? Having awareness about this practice of non-stealing takes practice as at times, this can be a subtle process 

I use this as an example of asteya, the practice of non-stealing.

This week, we’ll continue a series that takes a closer look at yoga’s ethical guidelines for living. These are called yamas, and they fall under Raja Yoga, the branch that governs the disciplines about controlling the mind and senses. The first two branches on Patanjali’s eightfold path are yamas and niyamas.

Simply put, yamas are things not to do, niyamas are things to do. Yamas can be thought of as practices of self-restraint, while niyamas are virtues to cultivate, or observances.

Asteya is the third yama in the practice.

How many times have men usurped the work of their wives or muses and taken full credit for the creative work that was completed? Or women denied being able to share their creations, simply due to their sex? The same can be said of this type of stealing happening to people of color and faith as well. 

The principle of asteya,or non-stealing, calls us to become aware of not taking what does not belong to us. This implies both material and non-material things. A good example? Something as simple as accepting praise when it was not yours to receive it in the first place.

Our consumption of resources at this time is a form of stealing from future generations. The climate crisis needs our full attention as the human race. It is good to see the current efforts being insisted upon by President Joe Biden and other world leaders. 

One sage from India, Sri Swami Satchidananda, shared that these first three yamas [link to the other two] are simple in their expectations, even “elementary” but need to be remembered as “elephantary,” a reference to the long lived memory of elephants. He is implying that perfecting these three is not easy to do and not to be forgotten. It is important to realize the value in practicing the first three yamas and not to forget about them. 

The intention is to be in harmony with the world around  and within you in a non-grasping manner. Being in harmony allows for trust to be present in the abundance that is present around us. The perception of lack is created in our culture. Is it possible for you to move beyond that perception? 

ENGAGEMENT QUESTIONS

  1. How am I out of touch with my own Divine nature? Do I feel ‘less than’ or ‘never have enough’?
  2. Am I balanced in my life with how I share my energy with others? or am I overextended and feel exhausted? 

3. Am I present with what is before me at this moment? or am I distracted, ready to move on to the next activity or person I am to meet?

4. Have I pulled on someone’s energy due to my own perception of need beyond what was truly needed? 

5. Have I acknowledged what is abundant in my life and how I have shared the abundance that I do have? 

The mantra for support is a mantra of abundance. Connecting with Lakshmi creates a shift from lack to accepting abundance in one’s life. The hand mudra called Hasta can be added as well as this gesture of bringing the hands together as an offering adds energy to bring and share this abundance into your life.

 Om shrim lakshmiyei namaha

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