Yama – Asteya (Non Stealing)

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A stray dog stealing bites of a lotus plant. He won't be a welcome guest at the Ayruvedic health clinic for long!

Taken together, Yamas and Nyamas are personal obligations to live well. Where Nyamas are most definitely on the “to do” list. Yamas are the “don’t do” list.
My topic is that of Asteya in Sanskrit, or non stealing in English:

A few  years ago I ran my own small design and decoration business. When I say small, it was just me, and I in turn was lovingly encouraged and supported by my ever patient family.
I cherished this one woman business of mine, and enjoyed immensely the cycle of creativity of not just my artwork and ideas; but also in the logistics, marketing, the PR, the thrill of tight deadlines and the warm glow of satisfaction that comes from a job well done.  Keeping good accounts was another kettle of fish – I was rubbish. But, with the help of my patient husband (luckily a Professor of Cryptology- the worlds’ most over-qualified secretary!) I somehow pulled my chaotic system together, and even turned a small profit.

I called the firm, Gekko Designs. Inspired by my satisfaction at observing geckos in our home, when my family and I lived in Australia on saabatical in 2006. We named a particularly bold one ‘Gary’, and my three small children and I spent many a happy hour watching handsome Gary Gecko’s antics; as he dextrously ruled the walls and windows of our crumbling mansion, dispatching pesky flies and mosquitoes with consummate skill.
Now, in tropical Queensland if you vacate your abode for a while, then the bush tends to reclaim its domain. We’d been away for three weeks on a road trip. And in that time the vines, possums  and insects had recommenced their rightful tenancy of our house.
On the first night of our return,  I was settling our baby daughter to sleep in our big bed in the centre of a sparsely furnished room.  I fell asleep too, and in that time a mouse-sized cockroach began lumbering its way towards us. Gary intercepted it though, and I woke with a jolt to a high speed and high pitched tussle on the duvet; resulting in a dismembered cockroach and a pool of viscous black cockroach blood. Gary became our champion!
When I formed the design company I had no doubts about what the name should be – Gekko Designs!  I wished to capture all the shining qualities of Gary.  The switch from gecko to gekko was to be able to purchase a domain name, and to be in line with the Danish language, where we live now. The little business ticked over, and Gary and I stuck to our guns and made Copenhagen a prettier,   more amusing,  edgier and more innovative place.

Then the global recession hit in 2008.

As in all hard times, the colour was sucked out of many things. Almost like a photograph fading and darkening in a fire. Into the bonfire of bankers avarice and greed my little gecko went. We were not alone.

I had just installed a sparkling Christmas decoration in a large hotel in Copenhagen.  As all my other customers faced the wall, this one hung on. That is, until I’d completed my Christmas display.  I submitted my final invoice and waited. And waited, and waited. Every morning , midday and evening I checked my emails – nothing. The artwork was installed at the beginning of November,  and just before Christmas I was feeling bruised and vulnerable,  as all my cajoling was doing nothing to halt the downward fall.

One day my young son, Kasper came trotting over to me as I sat slumped in a chair feeling full of self-pity and suppressed anger.
“What’s wrong,  Mummy? ”
Said a worried Kasper to my tear-stained face.
I pulled myself up and gazed in his sweetly familiar blue eyes, he snuggled his way onto my lap and I began to tell him a story:
“Mummy’s sad because she doesn’t know how to get all the money she’s owed from a big company. I want that money very much, especially to pay for a nice Christmas for us all.”
Kasper melted into my posture and I wiped my eyes and I continued.
“You know how in books the robbers all wear black and red striped pullovers and a black eye mask. Well they don’t really, they wear suits, ties, nicely ironed shirts, have soft sweaty hands and they smell of expensive aftershave to masque their nasty odour!”
Kasper absorbed this rather vivid description. While I briefly regretted my use of language,  I did really enjoy this allusion though.  And that night, unable to sleep,  I rose, dressed myself in black and prepared for combat.

I selected large pliers, copious amounts of refuse sacks, leather gloves and a black beret. My conclusion was that if they cheat me, then they’re not going to have the illusion of a beautiful Christmas,  they can get stuffed! I was going to rip it all out.

At 3:30 am,  I gulped-down a strong coffee and headed for the door. As I held the handle, a small voice in my head whispered,
“Check your emails!”
I sighed, took off the black beret and turned the computer on.
The invoice was paid in full!
I put my weapons aside and slipped happily back into bed.

The moral of this tale?

1. Never trust bankers
2. Use great caution when dealing with big businesses
3. Don’t stoop to “dog eat dog” tactics. It reduces you to the same low level, this blind rage can lead to errors in judgement. (Imagine if I’d ripped out all the Christmas decoration, only to find out that they’d paid me after all! )
4. Remember to listen to your inner voice. It can sometimes be Divine intervention.

Namaste

4 thoughts on “Yama – Asteya (Non Stealing)

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