Words by Phoebe White
You may have heard or seen the adage that says “You can’t pour from an empty cup”. But how do you keep your cup filled? And what is your cup? Phoebe discusses the yoga yama of ‘asteya’ which means non-stealing and shares four top tips for keeping energy levels high and our relationships balanced.
The third yama, asteya, (which is part of yoga’s codes for noble living) is about non-stealing. This goes deeper than simply respecting other people’s material possessions, and also includes our energy, time and emotions as all parts of our ‘cup’ that we can apply the concept of asteya to. (Here’s a beautiful blog about how to practice asteya, by Alexandra Franzen which is worth a look. )
Here, I want to focus on our relationships and importantly the relationship we keep with ourself. When we’re not stealing from others, the earth, or even ourselves what we’re talking about is balance. We may recognise that our cup is nearing empty when we’re tied up in doing things for others out of obligation, or when we hear ourselves saying “s/he’s better”/ “I’ve helped them loads, why don’t they ever come through for me’”/”I can’t pick up their call, it’ll drain me” etc.
Asteya would suggest that there is some stealing going on here, as if the energy has been taken from our cup… or indeed, we’ve let it be taken.
Perhaps someone can only talk about themselves and never offers support to you; or maybe everything we do for others is tied up with what we might get out of it (whether or not that actually happens). Often this can come about because of a sense of lack, a need for something from the other person or situation.
We all do this, we think we should have more, be better, do greater things than we do. It is this that brings us to desire and need and grasp at something or other, rather than feeling fulfilled and accepting of ‘what is’ in the moment. We can see this as stealing from ourselves.
Where the mind goes, the energy flows and if you’re spending all your time thinking about what others have that you don’t, or what others need or are good at that you’re not, you are in fact stealing precious energy from yourself, letting the energy leak out. It’s all about how we perceive ourselves in relation to the world, and others around us.
If this is you (and it’s most of us, let’s face it, most adverts have trained us to think like this), then NLP offers us three ‘perceptual positions’ to choose from.
The Three Positions
First Position: This is where we are totally ‘in’ an experience or feeling: seeing and hearing the world through our own perspective, undiluted by objectivity or someone else’s perspective. This is the truth of our direct experience (which I talked about in my last blog about satya, truthfulness).
Second position. This is where we assume the perceptual position of another. Those of us who offer good advice often do so because we can put our feet in the other person’s shoes. It’s a great skill but it will empty our cup if other people’s opinion about how we behave, talk or even live our entire life comes before our own. This is the state of a people pleaser.
Third position. This is where we look at the dynamic between the other two positions from a place of total objectivity - the ability to see ourselves and others, situations or events from the outside. It can be really useful for assessing how often we’re giving and/or taking from others in our lives.
Where The Mind Goes, Energy Flows
Think about where you put your energy… do you think about others first? Or yourself first? Or maybe you look firstly at what’s going on between people. Keeping your cup full requires practicing the skill of multiple perspectives – we all need to put ourselves first because we can’t pour from an empty cup. But if we only put ourselves first we’re likely to be stealing from someone somewhere. Making sure we can use all three of these perceptual positions means we can keep a track on how full or empty our cup feels.
This is a practice, and like most things is easier said than done. So here are my 4 top tips for making sure each day refills your cup so that you have the energy to give to others and are able to accept help and support without stealing it.
Make sure the first things you do with your day nourish you, and not just physically. Avoid jumping out of bed and rushing straight to work (a definite second position activity if you’re not running your own show). Instead, carve out some time for a beloved activity whether that be reading, exercising or pampering. Try to avoid any media… especially social media for at least the first hour of the day. Work out your priorities for the day and set about getting them met.
Don’t compare and despair
Get out of the habit of assessing other people’s lives based on your own… or vice versa. Turn off the adverts and turn away from the glamour. Instead, practice abundance by affirming to yourself that you are enough – actually say to yourself ‘I am enough’ whenever you find your mind wandering into desire or a sense of lack. This will help you be comfortable in your own skin (which is a life’s work actually… I’ll write more about this soon), when we’re ok with who we are in the moment, we are more likely able to open ourselves and offer help to others isn’t draining.
If you’re an experienced meditator, do carry on. If you’re not or have never tried it, then all you need to do is shut your eyes, take a deep breath and for five minutes, maybe longer, watch the breath. Imagine any thoughts that arise as echoes in the distance, giving yourself this time of silence and stillness. It feels like you’re doing nothing, but in truth to just merely sit, is likely the most productive activity you could do with your time.
Sleep is the number one activity for refilling our cups. Turn off all screens at least an hour before you intend to sleep, take time to be quiet, to slow yourself down so you can make the most out of your asleep time. I also like to take some time to set up for my morning routine.
I hope you find these tips helpful - remember, consistency is key!
A long serving Londoner, Phoebe is a qualified practitioner in Neurolinguistic Programming, life coach and yoga teacher, and experienced singer songwriter. She’s been leading workshops in a range of personal development topics and supporting people to achieve their goals for over 15 years. She teaches and sings regularly in North London and all around the world. You can find her over on instagram, facebook