Asteya is a Yama and it means non-stealing. Sounds easy right? Pay for things when you go to stores and return things you borrow. Asteya goes a lot deeper than that and it is something I continue to work on everyday. Have you ever compared yourself to someone else? I know I have! That person is better than me or that person has nicer clothes than me. This in a way is stealing. I am taking away from the other person and making myself feel less than. It feeds my ego and then somehow I come out feeling superior. Such an interesting complex that I try not to even get started.
I try to just love people and love where I am at. When I find myself being jealous of someone, judging someone or comparing myself to someone, I pray for them. I pray for them to be happy and have everything they want and live the journey they are meant to live. I pray for acceptance of my journey so that I am not blocked from Spirit and can continue to grow and help others.
Another huge way I have been guilty of stealing in the past is with other people’s experiences. Let’s say a friend goes on vacation and she comes back with some amazing stories. A few minutes into her story I am excited because I went on a trip once too! I start sharing my stories. I have just taken away her excitement about the trip she just went on. I have made it about me. I try to practice listening and letting people keep their moments. Many times I am just trying to help. If a friend has a death in their family, I try to relate to them. “Oh, I am so sorry, I lost someone recently too.” This sounds nice, but again I am stealing their experience. I try to listen and offer kindness but not intrude on their experience.
Deborah Adele says, “In all the instances where we steal, we have made the situation about us, not about the other.” I love this quote so much because it reminds me to not make everything about me even when my motives are good. Listen to other people and be kind. If someone wants my advice or my experience, they will ask.
Another part of Asteya that I look at is stealing from the planet. Some parts of it are very simple. I don’t litter. I eat local vegetables whenever possible. I try to carpool if possible. One aspect I love to think about is my possessions. This is something I also got from Deborah Adele’s book. She presents this idea that everything in the world that I “own” isn’t actually mine. It belongs to the Earth and I am just borrowing it. This concept changed my life! It made me so much less attached to things and stuff. It made me capable of being more generous. For example, my son is one year old. He has grown out of his newborn clothes. I was hanging on to them in case I ever needed them for another child. I was keeping clothes for a child I didn’t know if I would ever have, and if I did who knows what gender it would be. When living with the principal of everything is on loan, the opportunity arose to pass these items on to someone who needed them. My attachment to the clothes disappeared and I was able to give these which belong to the earth to someone else. Losing attachment to things is a very spiritual experience for me.
I remember when I first got sober I really felt like I hated myself. I was so disappointed in what my life had become and I had very little faith that I would ever amount to anything. As the fog lifted and I began practicing the 12 steps, that feeling faded quite a bit.
Sometimes the feeling of not being good enough still creeps in. There have been many times recently where I have played with the idea of obtaining my master’s degree. I would love to go back to school for school psychology or guidance counseling. I have this cycle where I begin looking into schools, look at curriculums and requirements, and then decide it isn’t for me. In a few moments I go from, “I am going to follow my dreams,” to “I am not smart enough to do this.” This is stealing from myself.
When I am living in the past or future, putting myself down or believing I am not good enough, I am most definitely stealing from my present life, which is always exactly as it is supposed to be. I am learning to look this fear in the face and walk through it. I am good enough and I can do it.
What can I do to strengthen my practice of Asteya? Here are some way I try to bring this Yama into my life on a daily basis.
Listen. Just listen to people when they talk. Whether it is a friend or family, a Mom at the library, or a stranger at the farm stand. I practice and am regularly working on listening more and talking less. When someone shares an experience with me, I do not have to match them. It isn’t a contest. When my focus is on listening, my conversations are much deeper and more meaningful.
Love. When I find my thoughts shifting to negativity around something another person has I focus on love. Thought, “Wow, her life is so much more together than mine.” Solution, “I am so happy her life is so together, I am grateful for my life too.” Seems a little silly, but practicing changing my thought reaction actually rewires my brain so that I can eventually start with the solution and not have to have the first thought.
Generosity. I am not in a financial situation where I can typically help others in that way. What I can do though is be generous with my time and things. Recently, I was able to donate some of my clothes to someone who needed them. I was able to give some items from my kitchen that I don’t use to someone who needed them. I was able to give some extra food that I had to a family in need. These are just some ways in which I can be generous. When living in the mindset that everything I have is on loan it is very easy to be generous. As far as time goes, when possible I give my time where I can. This is a great gift in building relationships in my life and helping others!
Kindness. Kindness to animals and the Earth. I do this by not killing bugs even if they scare me. I will recycle and reuse as much as I can. I am eating less meat in an effort to eventually be a vegetarian. This one has been hard for me, but I am working towards my goal.
Asteya is a beautiful concept that works perfectly with my recovery. I love that yoga is more than downward dog and cobra. Yoga is a way of life where all the parts intertwine to create a life of peace and serenity that really adds so much to my life.
“Sit still. Be quiet. Calm down. Don’t think so much. You’re too loud. You’re too much of this, not enough of that. Relax.” Growing up, I heard things like this all the time. I felt like I was never okay just the way I was. I was always striving to be perfect in the eyes of others. I was always trying to NOT hear these things said to me. As I got older, it got harder to be perfect. I was unhappy with myself and wondered why I couldn’t be more of this or less of that. At the age of 13 I had enough of being uncomfortable in my own skin and picked up my first drink. What started as teenage fun quickly spiraled into a drinking and drug addiction. There was something I would take to make me feel smarter. Something to make me more talkative. Something to calm me down. Another thing to put me to sleep. I was in total control of how I was on any given day…until they stopped working. I was right back to where I had started: uneasy, uncomfortable, not enough, sick, tired, and weak. I was in poor health and staring death in the face. I woke up one night on May 20th, 2015 and told myself I couldn’t live like this anymore. I got sober that night.
I remember my first yoga class. It had actually happened when I was 10 years old. My grandmother had signed me up through the YMCA to help me “calm down.” My friends all joined. It was not taken seriously. It never stuck. But, time and time again throughout high school, I would find myself always poking back into a yoga class. I liked the relief it gave me. Still, it never stuck.
Getting clean and sober, fitness played a huge part in my recovery. I wanted to get healthy again. I wanted to become the best version of myself possible. Once again, setting high expectations. I ran, used weights, boxed, went to spin classes and again, would pop into a yoga class on occasion. Granted, I got into the best shape of my life but still something was missing. I could never just breathe. I couldn’t sit still with myself. I was always running (literally) from one tough workout to the next. Always pushing myself to do more, go harder, be stronger, lift heavier, run faster. The same patterns repeated.
Fast forward to 2 years sober in January of 2017 when I was taking a yoga, meditation and stress management course as an elective for school. We were reading a book about the history of yoga and meditating before class. I started to learn how much more yoga was besides the poses in class. Yoga is a way to live. At this point I really wanted to live yoga and do yoga. My body was aching all the time, my muscles were fatigued and I needed something lower impact. I found a cute little studio up the street from my house and started going regularly. I remember leaving and being able to actually breathe. I felt lighter and present in my own life. I remember my teacher saying to me, “Just know you are perfect exactly how you are in this moment.” And everything clicked. I took my practice into my life. I started to LIVE yoga.
I took my practice everywhere. At home, in the car, in class, at work. I breathed and put myself into the moment. I would go to class and get an escape because each time I would learn something new about myself. I was actually PRACTICING something. By breathing and becoming present I made myself teachable and more open to what I am capable of. I believe the most important thing I took away from yoga is that I am allowed to be whatever I am on that given day. If all I can do is lay on my back and breath for half of the class or even an entire class, there is no one yelling at me to get up. No one is telling me to work harder, to push through, to do more or be better. The practice for me is about learning to accept myself on any given day, under any circumstances. It is a process. Some days it is hard and others it is easy. What I like about it the most is that yoga is a life long practice and I do not have to figure it out all at once. With each class, with each breath, I learn a little bit more.
And right now, for once in my life, that is finally enough. I, am finally enough.
My recovery has always been fairly easy to maintain. Throughout the years I have been sober I have had many ups and downs. Throughout each change I have easily been able to add to and modify my relapse prevention tools as needed. This past September my life changed in a huge and wonderful way. I had a baby. This was something I had planned for. I read lots of blogs on Pinterest. I figured out how I was going to balance everything. I was going to continue my normal life as far as my recovery went and just add being a mom to the mix. I had it all figured out. And then September 10th came and everything changed.
Having a child changed my recovery. It changed my spiritual program of action. It changed how I connect with my Higher Power. I used to wake up and immediately hit my knees and follow it with a daily reading and a fresh made juice. I would then practice yoga once or twice a week in a quiet space. I went to AA meetings whenever I wanted. I am going to share with you what the relapse prevention tools that have kept me sober for over six years look like today.
Prayer: Prayer has been a huge part of my life since the very beginning of my sobriety. My Higher Power has evolved as I have changed over the years. The most common way I would connect with my higher power prior to having my son was first thing in the morning and last thing at night. I would get on my knees and take time to quietly communicate. Today things are a little different, but my relationship with my Higher Power is stronger than ever. I sometimes wake up to a crying baby and sometimes I wake up to a laughing baby. It’s rather unpredictable. When he is crying I get out of bed quickly and don’t hit my knees like I used to. I tend to his needs and then when he is settled I talk to my Higher Power in the bathroom. While I am brushing my teeth I think about the day that is ahead and communicate the same way I would have before on my knees. When my son wakes up pleasant we pray together. I am able to get on my knees and he lies under my arms. It is a nice way for him and I to connect and start our day off with positive energy. I remember I heard a women share in a meeting once that since having a child she wasn’t able to pray first thing in the morning anymore. I remember thinking how ridiculous that was. I mean it only takes a minute or two, right? Wrong. In order for me to have a genuine connection with a Higher Power I have to be patient and find the right time. I spend much more of my time talking with my Higher Power at different points of the day. While I am driving or walking. It has strengthened my relationship with my higher power to connect more frequently as opposed to just once in the morning and once at night. I remain open to how this relationship will continue to evolve in the future.
Meditation: This is another relapse prevention tool that has done a great deal for my well being over the years. It has also transformed with me as my life has changed. I used to set a time each day to meditate. Sometimes my cat would sit on my lap, but all would be quiet in my world. Having my son has given me a deeper appreciation for meditation. The way I was meditating before was by no means wrong, but it was not as challenging as it is today. When I was guaranteed a quiet space it was easier for me to find internal peace as well. Having less quiet space has taught me that meditation is not an “escape” to some quiet paradise. It is being completely present in the moment I am already in. Today, when I am sitting on my mat, there might be a child crying in the background while my husband tries to get him to sleep or the TV could be on in the next room because my husband finally got a chance to catch up on The Walking Dead. With these potential distractions, I have a greater opportunity to be present in the chaos that is around me. This practice has allowed me to find a much deeper level of peace in my life as it unfolds on a day-to-day basis. It has helped me to put more distance in between a situation and my reaction. It has strengthened my pause button. Meditation has evolved for me in a powerful way that happened exactly as it was intended to.
Yoga: Yoga is something that I practiced for the very first time very early in my recovery. It was a very intense experience. I became very emotional right on my mat during a practice and this intrigued me. I learned more about emotions and experiences being trapped in my body. Over the years my yoga practice came and went, but it was something I would always come back to. I did yoga while I was pregnant and planned on doing it every single day with my son once he was born. That didn’t exactly happen. Having a newborn is exhausting and it is suggested to be very gentle with yourself for a couple months after. Once I settled into my new role a little more, I was ready to start my practice again. Except my son went through a period where he would scream when I put him down. That put quite a wrinkle in my plan. I began to practice some light yoga with my son, which really seemed to calm him down. Currently, I have set an intention to practice more yoga outside of my house. I have a lovely area to practice in, but there is something about being in a yoga studio that is magical for me. I recently learned that what I considered yoga (the postures) was just a small part of what yoga actually is. There are actually eight limbs of yoga that impact a person’s entire life. It has been a really beautiful journey learning more about these limbs. Currently I am focusing on ahimsa. It means non-harming. I am learning how to be kinder with my thoughts, actions and behaviors to others and myself. It has been eye opening and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for me.
Nutrition: This has been a challenging one for me. I thrive when I treat my body well. Exercise is important, but nutrition is crucial to my well-being! Before I had a baby I would wake up and make a fresh juice each morning. Sometimes it was carrot, apple and ginger or beet, orange and lemon. If you asked me then, this was a practice I would continue after I had my son. Well, making juice one handed is harder than it sounds. I also was an avid meal planner. I grew vegetables in my backyard. I purchased organic vegetables and grass fed meat. I made my own nut milks, ice cream, bread, and hummus. I didn’t have the same amount of time or energy once my son was born to keep this up. I had to be kind to myself because the expectations I put on myself were not realistic. I only make juice once a week now. The other days, I purchase it from the grocery store premade. I buy prepared food more often than I’d like, but I still strive to make healthy choices with salads and other nutrient dense meals. My son is five months now and I am beginning to finally balance taking care of him and cooking meals each day. It was a tough balance to find with the other things going on in my life. It has been a valuable lesson for me to bring my practice of ahimsa into this part of my life. At first I was displeased with my self for not being able to do everything I wanted. When I am being kind to myself, that negativity can’t exist. I am doing the best I can and that is perfectly fine.
AA Meetings: In my own recovery, meetings are a wonderful tool. They provide a place to fellowship, give and receive support, and to just feel at home. I enjoy meetings. Before I had my son I could go to any meeting, anywhere, whenever I wanted to. Things are a little bit different today. Infants can be very distracting in meetings for some people, including myself. I just end up looking at him the whole time because he is so cute! And when I am not doing that, I am focusing all of my energy on keeping him quiet. My husband and I switch off nights so we can both get the most out of our meetings. It has worked out well for the most part, both of us getting to enough meetings to give and get what we need. I no longer have the freedom I used to have when it comes to meetings, but the way things are fit into my life perfectly.
Parenthood has changed my life in its entirety. People would tell me that once I had a child everything would change, but I didn’t quite understand that until I had one. I wouldn’t trade my life today for anything, but I will be honest and admit things weren’t easy in the beginning. The first week was the best because my husband was home from work and life seemed perfect. Once he went back to work I had to really learn how to balance everything. Aside from recovery, there is work, school, and even just keeping the house clean. I had to learn how to balance all of these things so I could be well spiritually. Everyday isn’t easy, but everyday is truly a gift.