How Can I Stop Stealing?

May 27, 2020

QUESTION

Dear Robina,

I have struggled for years with stealing. It is an overwhelming feeling, it causes me pain and suffering. I have made countless promises and intentions to myself to stop. The feeling to do it just comes over me, or sometimes I plan it. I have been in a twelve-step program for many years and have been sober all this time, but have been unable to break this addiction, whch was in me even before I drank. 

I am now following the path, and setting my daily intentions and motivations and doing meditation. Is there anything you can recommend?

R.

ANSWER

Dear R,

I’m glad to hear from you. 

Habits are very old, as you know! But I think you also know that we can change habits, and you seem to be doing that. 

Be brave, make a determination every morning that you will not steal, and at the end of the day, make the same determination. 

Do you have any Buddhist practices? Are you familiar with the purification practices? Let me know, then we can discuss more.

Love to you,
Robina

 

QUESTION

Dear Robina,

Thank you for your response. Since the lockdown has begun I have discovered all the online courses from the various centers and have been following many programs. I have also had the honor of seeing you speak the Dharma online on some of the teachings you have held. So I have some very basic practices. I’m still in nursery regarding this. 

I have been following the purification practice online with a Vajrasattva YouTube video in the morning and I recite the Thirty-five Buddhas prayer each day. 

I follow your guidance at the beginning on setting my intention and motivation about not stealing, but then when I get to the supermarket that all gets pushed aside and I steal the food in the shopping trolley. 

I am overweight and I know it all must be connected somehow. So any help and insight you may have would be very helpful. 

Much love and kindness to you,
R

ANSWER

Happy to hear from you R, thanks for telling me what’s happening.

You’re doing beautifully, it seems to me!

Yes, habits die hard, we really know this. Your first step is to be confident that you can change. It will take time, no problem, but this habit is not set in your bones.

You have a practice, which is excellent. Doing the purification practice at the end of the day is very powerful. But don’t be vague about it; be precise. I’m attaching here some teachings about karma and purificaiotn, and the practice itself.

The key to success is in the way we approach these “four opponent powers.” Regret, the first one, has to be a heartfelt recognition of the mistakes we make and then being very specific about, let’s say, your stealing. It’s important to understand that regret is not guilt — that’s useless. Regret is sincere recognition of this habit and regretting it because you’re sick of the suffering of it. That’s the reason for regret, it’s like compassion for yourself. 

Then the last step, resolve, is crucial. You make a firm decision that, let’s say, “I will not steal tomorrow, for twenty-four hours, I promise myself, I will not steal.” Make it really strong, really confident. You need to be precise. As Lama Zopa says, we can’t lie to ourselves and say “I will never steal again,” the habit is too strong. So make it twenty-four hours. When you wake up in the morning, remember that commitment to yourself. Remember it throughout the day. The more precise you can be, the more likely you’ll be successful. You have to actually so the words.

As for being overweight: sure, its linked. But to understadn the link we need to understand attachment — that’s why we eat, steal, lie etc. etc. etc. This means we need to understand attachment: our bottomless pit of dissatisfaction, of feeling we never have enough, never are enough. 

And if the idea of karma makes sense to you, then we’re born with our tendencies, our wonderful, productive ones too. This is why we do things automatically, including the good things: our minds are deeply programmed with the habits from having done them before.

Slowly, slowly, R. Just keep going, one step at a time, knowing you have wonderful potential, that attachment, stealing, etc., etc., are not at the core of your being. You can change!

And every day, delight in your progress. If you break your twenty-four-hour commitment, then again at the end of the day, regret it because you’re sick of the suffering, and again make a decision. 

Be optimistic, positive, be clear.

Much love
Robin

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