How to practice Asteya — non-stealing of others’ time — in your work and everyday life.
Asteya is a Sanskrit word that means “non-stealing.”
It’s one of the ten yamas and niyamas of yoga — ethical guidelines that yogis strive to embody and practice, on and off the mat.
Like most yogi-centric ideas, it’s got several layers of meaning and depth.
On a surface level, practicing Asteya can mean literally not stealing money out of someone’s pocket.
It can also mean not hoarding materials that you don’t need, mindlessly consuming natural resources, coveting other people’s possessions, or appropriating other people’s ideas.
But one of the most interesting interpretations of Asteya is the notion of not stealing the most precious and non-renewable resource of all:
With each passing year, my life seems to accelerate. I’m highly conscious of how little time I have left to do the work that needs to be done. I’m highly conscious of how little time I have left with my parents — a few decades, a couple dozen Christmas dinners, and a handful of vacations together, if we’re lucky. I’m highly conscious of how easy it can be to waste people’s time. Mine and others.
Here are a few thoughts on how all of us can practice Asteya — non-stealing of others’ time — through our work, our daily communication (including emails), and our everyday lives:
— Write short, concise, elegant emails. Most working professionals receive upwards of 100 emails a day. If you’re going to add to the queue, strive to be precise.
— Think before you reach out to someone for help. Can the answer you’re seeking easily be Googled? Do you really need assistance? Do you have a specific question? Strive to be self-reliant. Answer your own questions whenever possible. Doing your own research can often be faster than waiting for someone else to reply!
— Consider not speaking. “Open your mouth only if what you are about to say is more beautiful than silence.” –Arabic Proverb
— Show up on time. Model punctuality and inspire others to do the same.
— Don’t commit to projects that you have no desire to complete. Say no. A lot.
— Spell out your personal policies clearly, particularly if you are self-employed. Make sure your customers, clients, and collaborators see your policies — and read them — before partnering with you. This can prevent heartache and wasted time later down the line for everyone involved.
— Try to avoid changing your mind mid-stream — especially if your new choice creates a significant inconvenience for others. If you must break a commitment, do it as quickly as possible.
— Communicate with intention. Gather your thoughts before you start speaking or emailing. Be direct. Speak from the heart. Say what is true. Sometimes the most beautiful, powerful thing you can say to another human being is also the simplest and briefest. (“Yes.” “Always.” “I love you.” “I promise.”)
It’s been said that “all the wealth of the world will be drawn to one who has mastered the practice and discipline of Asteya.”
How will you practice Asteya today, in your everyday life… through your actions and words?