One of the main principles of Asteya is non-coveting; not desiring that which belongs to another, being happy with the life we create, rather than viewing happiness through our interpretation of another’s life.
Envy is a shadow emotion, it drives other more passionate emotions like anger, resentment, irritation and dissatisfaction, but rarely shows its true face. Envy creates bad feelings towards others, but it is something we rarely share. Envy is an emotion that we are taught to push down, it is treated with a certain shame, though it is as natural as any other primal feeling. So our envy chews at us and truly, feeds the sense of competition we feel towards ourselves. We live alone with our envy and try to deny that it exists. It does not mean that we are greedy or ill hearted, but it could mean that something in yourself is yearning to come out.
There are ways to soothe our envious feelings, by being honest with ourselves about how we are feeling and why. Do you envy anothers talent – is this because it is a talent you lack, or because it is a talent of yours that you have not developed? Is it your perception of their life and situation that creates this feeling? Once you identify the source of the envy and its true nature, it is easier to accept.
As a yogi, I am aware that my ego likes to convince me that I am above feelings of greed and envy – but the truth is that I am loaded with these feelings; for me they manifest mostly in my emotional life. In my yoga practice, I do not feel much envy, I am blessed to be comfortable with my practice.
So whom do I envy and why? It seems only fair that I disclose my own feelings so I will go ahead and tell you…
As someone who comes from an abused, unstable and tumultuous upbringing, I envy those who have stable, supportive,loving families who encouraged them to be all that they can be and want to be. I envy them the environment of trust that I believe this creates…I find it difficult to trust many people. I moved around a lot when I was growing up and was always the new kid in school – I envy those who have had the stability of home in one place, the friends and community that develop from that sense of home. I perceive a support network both within and without these people that I find lacking in myself a lot of the time.
It is not a pretty envy to carry; I counter this (in part) by learning through others how best to bring stability into myself and my own life (an ongoing process). I am blessed with friends who have shared their wisdom with me, it has contributed greatly to my sense of Self love.
I envy women who are tall, leggy and slim – I am short, not long, slender legged, curvy and have, in the past, struggled with my weight. I envy those who do not have any stage fright (or who manage to overcome it) – I have a talented singing voice that fear keeps me from sharing or letting loose my inner diva (she’s a smokey jazz singer actually but…). I envy those for whom a sense of confidence, self-esteem and self-belief come easily – for me they do not. I envy those who are naturally meticulous and neat – I can be messy, disorganized and scattered. My point in sharing these is that it does not feel comfortable to admit that I am somehow petty, even though I know without a shadow of doubt (or envy) that we all have these thoughts.
The purpose of envy, as an emotion and/or process, is to keep us locked in a feeling of lacking, to keep us from our joy – that is simply what envy does. Envy convinces us that we are not all beautiful miracles because we think someone else is more miraculous than we are, usually because of one feature, trait or talent – envy does not consider the other person (or your Self) as a whole being. It’s an isolating emotion.
Consider what and whom you envy, and why? Acknowledge your envy and give it room to breathe, play with it, draw it, whatever you need to do to bring that out into the open and look at it with loving eyes. Share your envy here in the comments section – throw it off your chest and get it out there.
Try our Metta Meditation (www.yogayak.com/meditation/metta [http://www.yogayak.com/meditation/metta]) and send your love out to those you envy; bring your true loving nature to this shadow feeling and listen to what your Self tells you.