Friday, November 18, 2011

"Asteya": We are Among Giants

Recently, I looked through a few of my old photo albums. One was from last summer when I went to King Canyon's National Park. I saw the "largest known single stem tree" [the late General Sherman] in the world and some of the tallest and fattest trees I have ever seen in my life. I remember standing under one of them and feeling so incredibly young, so infantile, compared to the long life that that tree had lived. Along with the magnitude of the Sequoia's beauty, I took with me a great reminder of how massive our world is, how incredibly diverse it is, and of how relative my placement is to all of it.

The Sequoia's are ancient - literally, hundreds and hundreds of years old. These trees have lived through an incredible array of experience! Breaking through the surface of the earth, collecting nutrients, growing, enduring weather patterns, seasons, pests, animals, people, construction...

Tonight I am reminded of this magnitude. How often are we intimidated by the prospects of something that seems so much bigger than far beyond our talents, our perspective, our resources? How often do we feel shrunken by the light of someone else?

Yoga teaches us a lot about not comparing things in a way that devalues one or the other. It's called "asteya" and it means "non-stealing." I'm finding that when I use my energy comparing myself to others, it takes away energy that I could be using in a creative way. I read once an interesting take on Asteya - that even trying to separate people is a form of stealing because collaborative energy is lost, because we are all connected by a universal element that requires us to recognize our unique differentiation.

In a less magical light, this universal element is not as proverbial as it sounds. Everything in our perceivable world has it's source in the element Carbon. Everything that we can see and feel in the physical world is a result of a unique and diverse configuration of carbon-based elements. Layers of other elements configure to create our life - people, objects, animals...but striped to the bare minimum, we are all simple carbon molecules suspended in space.

So when it comes down to it, we are all the same, just as we are varied. In some way, I am the magnanimous General Sherman spreading my canopy of branches over smaller yet equally carbon-rich beings. In another way, I am the person whose qualities intimidate me most, I am the idea that appears groundbreaking, I emit the same brilliance as the other person who seemed to outshine me.

Nature, like truth, is a great equalizer.

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