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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, 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.

Negative Thoughts

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.