“The heart that gives, gathers.” — Tao Te Ching
The yoga philosophy of asteya, or generosity, is the third of the five yamas. Traditionally translated as non-stealing, asteya is the practice of cultivating generosity towards ourselves and others. It is being content with who we are and what we have. Author Nischala Joy Devi translates asteya as, “Abiding in generosity and honesty,” and adds that when we are able to do so, “material and spiritual prosperity is bestowed.”
When we are active in an eating disorder, we continually steal from our authentic selves. Practicing asteya means that we provide our bodies with vital nutrients and fill our lives with genuine experiences. Unrealistic standards tend to rob a person of happiness, and in order to recover, one must choose fulfillment over “perfect” achievement.
A healthy body allows us to do and accomplish so much. Asteya helps us to recognize that there is no need to take from outside ourselves because we possess all we need inside of ourselves. Eating disorder symptoms are a way of using things outside of oneself in order to make one feel in control, or numb. Asteya guides us to not ‘steal symptoms’ but instead to use our own inner resources to tolerate an uncomfortable or challenging experience.
Babette Dunkelgrun, member of the Yoga for Eating Disorders Facebook Group, shares how she practices asteya in her recovery. She shares, “When I’m in my own head, I take a moment to think of others… especially during the pandemic, people appreciate a text or phone call and it helps me feel more connected so it’s always worthwhile all around. I like the feeling of being of service in big and small ways, that’s what I try to model in my thoughts and actions. I focus on asking about their lives and have been getting better at remembering important events.”
Reflect on Asteya in your Recovery
Author Deborah Adele reminds us that comparing ourselves to others is a form of stealing and is the opposite of generosity:
“Asteya is restraining from making ourselves smaller or bigger than we are, or from trying to be something we are not or hiding from what we are. It is often hard to know where to draw the line in just where too much lies. Yoga addresses this dilemma beautifully: Gather all the resources you need to support your particular service in the world. No more; no less. In other words, we are asked to walk a fine line between stealing from others and stealing from ourselves. If we take more than we need in any area of our lives, we are stealing from others. If we deny ourselves the resources we need to reach our full potential, we are stealing from ourselves.”
I invite you to reflect:
What are some unintentional ways you may be stealing from others and yourself?
Where is there room for generosity in your relationship with others and yourself (especially yourself) today?
What needs will be met if you give yourself permission to be generous, especially in caring for your body and mind?
A Meditation for Practicing Generosity
When you have a few minutes of quiet and the willingness to check in with yourself, try this guided meditation on asteya.
Perhaps take this affirmation from True Yoga, by Jennie Lee, into your day as a reminder to practice asteya: “My generosity creates an open door for me to receive what I need.”
I’d love to hear how you focus on generosity in your recovery. Please feel free to share in the comments. And if you are looking for support on your recovery journey, please don’t hesitate to reach out.