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Mudrashram Institute of Spiritual Studies

 

 

 

The Quest for Excellence

 

© 1996 by George A. Boyd

Excerpted from Light on Meditation

Human behavior is partly influenced by internal standards against which you measure yourselves. These standards define

  1. what is possible

  2. what you can become

  3. what you can do

  4. what you can have

  5. what you should do, be and have

  6. how you measure up to others

and yields an overall sense about how you are doing, which has been termed self-esteem or self-concept.

Those standards are learned from others, but also arise from within yourselves, from experience and insight into your own motivations, from a first-hand knowing of your own biological drives, emotional desires, mental plans and spiritual aspirations. The standards that are learned from others come from a variety of sources, including

  • modeling, what see others doing, being and having

  • morality, what you are told is right or wrong, or what you should do or have, or how you should be

  • social influence, how others give us feedback about your behavior by speaking to us, or through using written means such as grades or performance evaluations.

Other people are your models in any type of human endeavor. There is a broad continuum of what you can achieve: from the worst to the best; from the demonic to the holy; from the most evil to the most noble and good; from failure in every aspect of human life to success in every way; and from moral and spiritual degradation to full Enlightenment.

It is in this place of choosing, where you see something that you want to become, that you want to do or have, that you create your lives and destinies. Partly, this choosing is conditioned by what you believe is possible; partly influenced by what you have experienced before and by what you have been taught; and partly determined by your vision, by what you see is possible, despite what you have experienced or learned from others.

Choosing from your vision means that you can choose something new, something other than what others tell us is possible or acceptable, something other than what you have done before. It is a risk to act from vision, because it is not tried on the touchstone of experience, and it departs from the conventional wisdom and patterns of behaving that define your family and social groups. It calls you to something at which you may fail, perhaps even at the cost of your life and fortune. It is like a leap of faith, in that you must act on an untested principle, an assumed truth, something that seems possible but you do not know for certain whether it will work or not. You step out from the firm ground of what you have known into the tenuous unknown, and you choose a new thing.

The possibility of thinking of yourself beyond the usual constraints and limitations brings you into the realm of the Divine Imagination, the inner world of the Soul. Here you can clearly visualize your dreams, your ideals, what you want to achieve in this human life, what you want to share with others. Beyond merely satiating your appetites and desires, living out life scripts–goal-driven, family-condoned and socially-acceptable tracks for education, career, family and retirement–in the realm of the Soul you seek meaning, understanding and fulfillment.

These deeper wellsprings of your life form the voice of your conscience, your inner sense of knowing your truth and true living. This gives you the reasons for your existence and provides a purpose for living. Something behind the ongoing, ever-repeating cycle of the weary Monday through Friday commute between work and home, doing the unending tasks of work; to Friday night party with friends, to park with the kids on Saturday, to church and ball game on Sundays, and back again to the cycle. It is in this place of knowing your truth, your dharma, that you form a vision of your own standards, of your essential values, your own ideas of excellence.

Excellence means, among other things, not compromising on quality, even though you can. It means doing more than you have to, even if it takes more time. It means doing each thing as an act of love, as if you were going to present each labor as an offering before the Lord Himself. It means being patient, when you could clearly rush through the task, but yielding inferior quality. It means tasting each berry that you pick to make sure that it is sweet, before you put it before your loved one. It is attending to the last detail, so that no part is left undone. It is learning the book in its entirety, so that you become an expert in the subject. It is taking the hand of the Master, and journeying with Him or Her into the very Being of God. It is not settling for second best, for only the finest will do.

Because when you take hold of the hem of the garment of excellence, you take Perfection and hold it in your hands, gaze through its mirror into the infinite possibility of human life, and choose to make it real. You take this rarest jewel, and bring it out into the marketplace, asking who shall buy this most precious thing?

You purchase the precious jewel of excellence by paying your full attention, your undivided dedication, your unwavering commitment, your one-pointed concentration, your unceasing devotion, your undying effort. You stay on the path, whatever it takes, and you travel upon this path to its very end, until you reach the other shore.

Whether this path is to become the best basketball player you can be, the finest pianist, the most knowledgeable scholar, the most precise jeweler, the clearest-communicating public speaker, the most responsive government officia–you stay on the path. You are not deterred by setbacks, by disappointments, by temporary failures. You are not swayed though the entire world decries your folly. You are not stopped though you have apparently exhausted your solutions, your energy, your resources, and you stand alone–you press on towards the goal.

No matter how dark the night, though all the assembled hosts of hell stand before you, impeding your way, press on–press yet on and vanquish each obstacle until the final gossamer veil is rent and you arrive naked and free into the unborn Light of God. Because behind every path, behind every winding trail–no matter how long, how steep the climb, no matter through what abyss or desolation you must travel, behold He is there…waiting for you, cheering you on, supporting you in so many ways you do not see or know, breathing upon your dreams to keep them alive. For are they not His dreams, too? And you, as His Divine child, are His way of realizing those dreams, through you, in you and around you; in your life and in the lives of others.

Because He will only accept the best, that is what He has also chosen for you–no substitutes, nothing artificial–only the best. Only the best—this is the feast that He has placed before you, the birthright He has promised you.

For when you choose the best, with no compromises, you are choosing what He has chosen for you. And when you do that, you know what is excellent, what is good, what is true, what is beautiful, what is lasting, and what is the perfect will of God.

Yes, this is the high road, the challenging road of excellence. It is easy to settle for the well-worn and safe trails of mediocrity, following the crowd, conforming to other's values and standards, letting others dictate to you how you shall think and act and be…without ever finding yourself, without ever knowing who you are?

The path of excellence is a path that only you can choose. It takes the highest sacrifice and dedication you can summon. But then, even as no one has mastered an art without long practice, without dedication and perseverance, you cannot take hold of excellence in a day. You must polish the facets of this rough stone until it becomes a flawless gem, through which the Light shines, so clearly, so beautifully. Take then, the jeweler's tool and trim here; remove the dross to reveal the ideal form beneath—polishing, polishing…a little more clearly, a little more purely each day—because this is the Path, the quest for excellence.

 

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