The Happiness Thief
I was on a trail run the other day, chugging along, listening to the Hip Hop BBQ Pandora station (if you don't know, now you know), when a slender blonde sped past me, easily running double my pace. She punted me right out of my Biggie trance - I felt frustrated and challenged by her. So I did what my Ego told me to do: I sped up.
I was able to slam out a few swift steps before it dawned on me - that that wasn't my run...that was HER run. I slowed back down to my pace, back to MY run. And because of that, I was able to inhale the beauty that surrounded me, on MY path.
This may have been a small moment in time, but it really resonated with me. When we covet that which is not ours, we are robbing ourselves of our true existence. We are literally stealing from our own happiness. I've had a chance to reflect on how frequently I have stolen from myself and others, and how damaging this cycle can be.
But first, let's back up a bit.
In yoga, there's something called the Yamas and Niyamas; they are a set of thoughts that strive to guide us down our own personal path of contentment. The Yamas identify peaceful ways to interact with the outside world (people, objects, Earth), while the Niyamas provide space for reflection on our relationship with ourselves and the divine.
Asteya, or non-stealing, is one of the five Yamas. In this instance, stealing doesn't necessarily mean looting your corner liquor store...here, it's a little less tangible. We can steal from others by one-upping their story with our better/crazier/sadder story. We can steal from the Earth by not recycling. But, what I believe is the easiest and most common way we steal, is when we steal from ourselves. Here are a few of the ways I've caught myself stealing from my own happiness...see if you recognize any of these in yourself.
I'm so fat. I hate my laugh. I'm a terrible mom. Everyone is doing this so much better than I am.
This stream of thoughts is so common among women, especially those of us who are mothers. We allow darkness to squat in our consciousness, evicting our light and stealing space we've created for happiness, space for love, and space for silence. We would never say these horrible things to our children, our friends, or even someone we don't like all that well...why is it okay to say them to ourselves?
Living in the Past/Future
I don't have a lot of memories from growing up, and it's only recently that I've been able to be honest about why that is: I was never really living in the moment. I was aways either anticipating what was next, or obsessing about something that had already happened. I still do this, and it terrifies me to think I might not remember these days. In coveting my future or wishing I could relive my past, I've robbed myself of my own memories.
Living Someone Else's Truth
As I see it, there are two ways this happens:
1. We grow up believing there is a certain life we are supposed to lead. Perhaps that means we go to college, get a full-time desk job, get married, have kids, live in the suburbs...whatever. These ideals may not be forced upon us, but for one reason or another we learn from family, friends, colleagues, society, etc. that this is "just what you do." We see this picture that has been painted for us and we try to fit ourselves into the painting, forgetting that WE are the painters...WE hold the brush and the ability to paint our own life to be the truth we want it to be.
2. We live by comparison. This is exactly what happened to me on my run...I compared myself and my place in life with the girl who was running faster than me.
In both scenarios, we steal from our own truth...we have forgotten or buried what truly makes us happy and instead are looking towards others to tell us what our happiness is.
We all know it's wrong to steal...but for some reason we are incapable of recognizing when we are both the victim and the thief. And even if we can admit it, we may justify our actions in thinking we don't deserve happiness; that somehow we haven't earned the right to be content and we should have sadness and anger and hate fill our hearts.
This couldn't be farther from the truth. We are born deserving of happiness and light. We are born deserving of our own path of joy and love. And best of all, we are most deserving of that love coming from within. When we begin to understand that the path to happiness lies within us, we can stop looking outside for fulfillment. We can stop stealing from ourselves and from others, and grow into the beautiful soul we were meant to be.
Cultivating your own practice can help you become more present and aware of the ways in which you may steal from yourself and others. I encourage you to find time on your mat today, and every day, even if for only 5 minutes.
If you'd like some tips on what you can do to bring more happiness into your life through yoga, I'd love to hear from you!