A Space to Be, Separate Together Retreat

Treading Lightly (asteya)

“Walk as if you were kissing the earth with your feet”
Thich Nhat Hanh

The third of the yama is asteya which means not-stealing. Although I’m sure we are all honest and trustworthy people in this community, a practice of asteya might also include attention to situations in which we might inadvertently ‘steal’ someone’s words, time, space, privacy, reputation or even (a favourite expression of mine) their ‘thunder’.

Asteya is also about not taking more than we need, or being conscious of how we use our own and the earth’s resources. Can we tread lightly on our earth by choosing wisely our actions and what we consume?

While everyone has experienced this year very differently according to their circumstances, I don’t think I am alone in having experienced over the course of this lockdown a huge reappraisal of what it is I actually ‘need’ on a day to day basis.

I believed I had already done a lot of work to reduce my schedule, my work load, my expectations of myself (and my kids) and my carbon footprint. However lockdown has showed me I could do even more – or more to the point –  less.

I have discovered I need even less that I thought I did. 

So now, as restrictions ease, my challenge is to protect that experience of ‘less’. I’m keeping empty space in my diary, I’m continuing the daily walks we began as a family in March and I’m continuing my daily routine of resting for twenty minutes. I am finding this harder – the outside pressures are greater now – but I’m resolved to protect my ‘less’ and tread as lightly as I can.


The Summer Day by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

from New and Selected Poems, 1992
Beacon Press, Boston, MA

Copyright 1992 by Mary Oliver

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