The third yama is asteya, or nonstealing. Asteya serves as a wake-up call, prompting us to remember all the ways, big and small, that we steal – the borrowed books still on our shelves, the corners we cut on our taxes, the hours we spend at work not being productive. As we begin to consciously practice asteya, we also see just where and how we need to change. Suddenly we are no longer comfortable with the rationalizations and compromises we have been making.
At a deeper level, asteya is our first encounter with the power of nonattachment. When we look honestly at the ways in which we have been stealing, we come to understand that in each instance, there is an attachment to a specific result that overrides our deeper values. We want the last orange in the refigerator more than we want to be a good partner. We had a tough week at work, so we will undertop the waitress at the diner. Beneath the attachment, we find fear: fear that we will not get what we need; fear that if we leave things up to the universe, we will not be taken care of. This sutra declares the opposite to be true: “When abstention from stealing is firmly established, precious jewels come.” In other words, the surest way to get what you want is to let go of wanting. What is required, then, is a radical, absolute, living trust in the workings of the universe. This trust is the spiritual opposite of the act of stealing, and accompanied by right action, it removes the blocks to our natural abundance.