Monday, May 26, 2008

Inner Asteya

Sharath gave a conference last night and I was reminded of a practice I had last year when out of frustration I choose to quit early.
I was fed up, had had enough, my back was sore, I had no energy, and in my mind I wasn't "progressing."

As I left the shala my teacher looked at me and said, "weak mind". Something sunk in my chest. I was heart broken, angry, and wanted to cry. But honestly, Sharath was right, he had nailed me. Of course this led to a little reflection for me...

The yamas are known in the yoga sutras as the mahavratam (the great vows). These fundamental teachings are the corner stone of yoga. Asteya is the third yama, and is translated as “non-stealing.” For most of us it is obvious we must not steal in order to maintain our practice of ahimsa (non-violence). We know that if we take something from someone else we are harming him or her.

But what about stealing from ourselves?

We all face challenges both on and off the mat. One challenge I have in my practice is urdhva danurasana or back-bends. It's not so surprising that this posture became much easier when I realized I was actually sabotaging myself with my mind. (Ok... that's a picture of Harmony not me)

I had developed a pattern of berating myself, and it needed to be broken. Somehow a resistance towards bending-back had crept in, along with an attachment to what I believed was “ideal progress.” I realized that I needed to release the feeling of fear I was having patiently over time. I needed to stop stealing my ability to see the positive.

This brings up the question: “How do we steal from ourselves both on and off the mat?”
Do we steal time from ourselves? Do we push into and through pain in an unhealthy manner? Are we overly critical of ourselves? Do we mentally beat ourselves up?

We can start to find our own answers by asking ourselves the right questions: Am I being patient with myself? Am I allowing myself enough time to learn the lessons I need to learn before moving forward?

Louise Hay, in her book You Can Heal Your Life, asks her readers to: "Stop for a moment and catch your thought. What are you thinking right now? If it is true that your thoughts shape your life, would you want what you were just thinking right now to be true for you?"

This is a great question to ask your self. Are we thinking supportive thoughts? Or are we playing old tapes in our heads that no longer add value to our present circumstances.

Are our thoughts, and consequently our lives, filled with the mantra: "I can do it!" or are we in subtle ways stealing happiness and contentment from ourselves simply because we have not examined our own patterns of thinking? It is so easy for the mind to simply default into its old self-sabotaging patterns, so we need to make a conscious effort to increase the awareness of our own thoughts.

Ultimately we need to support ourselves in the yoga practice we have chosen. This is vital. We need to give ourselves lots of positive encouragement the way we would encourage others. Learning to love and approve of our actions in every moment is one of the most important practices that we can do.

I leave this week with one more quote from Louise Hay: "If we want a joyous life, we must think joyous thoughts. If we want a prosperous life, we must think prosperous thoughts. If we want a loving life, we must think loving thoughts. Whatever we send out mentally or verbally will come back to us in like form." (You Can Heal Your Life)

If it is true that we only get what we give, then perhaps it’s time to reflect upon what you have given or withheld from yourself lately.