Shifting Our Focus

The third Yama, Asteya, is best translated as “nonstealing.” But Asteya is far more than not taking a material object that isn’t ours.

One-upping is an example of violating Asteya. When we compare ourselves to others, many times we feel lacking in some way. This often leads us to react out of jealousy. Here is a story of such a reaction. Sally and I were sitting at our friend Gertrude’s dining room table one dreary New England Fall morning. Gertrude was excitedly telling us about her recent holiday to France. While we were sipping peppermint tea, she was painting with words a lovely picture of the Loire Valley; beautiful rolling hills, dramatic old castles, bicyclists meandering down the windy country roads, and vast fields of grapes surrounding quaint wineries. It was a story of picnics with wine, cheese, and French bread. We were lost in the moment, a lovely afternoon in the French countryside. Then Sally suddenly blurts out, “Guess where I’m going on holiday next month?  Gary is taking me to the Caribbean! Yes, we are going to St Croix for a whole week!” It was like screeching tires, shattering glass, and crunching metal.



What just happened? Well, Sally just stole from Gertrude. She tore the conversation away and made it about herself. I bet you can recall a time when you’ve been a victim of this type of stealing. Or, have you ever been guilty of this kind of theft? We are good people, so why do we do this? It’s simply an attempt to make us feel better about ourselves, to boost our own ego. But it doesn’t work that way, all we do is drag everyone down with us. There’s no boost from this—not for anyone.

But if we engage with others’ experiences, really listen and focus that energy inwards, we get excited about their lives and our own life. We grow, learn and elevate. From that vantage point, we can gain the ability to help elevate others, to build them up versus dragging them down.

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