First, stop and think of what “not stealing” means to you. For most of us, the obvious comes to mind. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. But this Yama (like the others) goes far beyond taking material possessions that are not yours to take.
I agree with the precept from Ekhart Yoga (see original link below). We steal because of innate self-worth issues. We think that by taking what others have, we will become like who we THINK they are. We steal because we think we are not good enough. We feel disconnected and incomplete on our own.
I want to give you a personal example of an abstract thought on stealing. I encountered an individual that was always apologizing. For everything. All the time. Apologizing for the sake of apologizing. While the intention was not consciously malicious, the amount of energy and time it took to sooth and reaffirm this individual was extremely draining. This is an example of how you can unconsciously steal time and energy from another person. By becoming aware of how our words and actions impact others and by examination of the root cause of why we do what we do, we can start to elicit real change by speaking authentically, with full awareness of our intentions behind our words. After becoming more aware, I realize I too was unconsciously starting to do this. I now see the impact on others and myself from both sides of this situation.
Another form of stealing is spending too much time on social media. When you mindlessly "scroll" and hours go by, you are stealing time from your spouse, your children and from yourself. We have all fallen into the "black hole" of the internet (I am guilty!) but when you start to bring your attention mindfully to where your time is going, you can make better use of it. Intentionally focusing on spending time on yourself by doing yoga, meditating, doing art, reading, etc. brings awareness to the present moment.
Being constantly late is another way to "steal" from people. You are stealing time from others when you are repeatedly late. Be mindful of how your actions impact others.
Jealousy is a way to steal as well. Although a perfectly normal emotion, it not only creates a dynamic where you end up wasting a lot of time and it steals friendships and relationships. If you use Jealousy as an indicator of what you authentically want, it can be a transformative tool. For example, if a person is jealous that their friend is spending time with another friend, maybe that is an indicator that you miss that person and you want to spend time with them. Instead of creating drama and strife, focus on what you really want. If it is to spend time with the person, make a plan, pick up a phone and call them. Or if you are jealous your sister starts her Masters program, perhaps that is an indicator that you want to begin a new career or school path. Make a goal, make a plan and go! But misusing jealousy can steal moments from friendships, it can steal peace of mind and more. Just be mindful of your authentic needs and desires, what lies beyond the superficial, holds the answers to your peace of mind.
Ways to steal on the yoga mat...well I think the first and most obvious is comparing yourself to others. It is so easy and we all do it. Being mindful in your own practice and bringing your awareness to you and where you are at RIGHT NOW can bring about an acceptance, a letting go of any expectation. It is freeing. So don't steal your neighbors practice, focus on you and this moment.
Can you think of any other ways that we steal from each other? Let me know in the comments! I would love to hear your thoughts.