Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Excellence

"Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5:48)

Try to recall a time when you performed some action perfectly, when you brought your very best to the situation, when you gave a 100% effort completely appropriate in every respect, when afterwards you discovered profound satisfaction in what you had done. If you cannot remember such an event, then imagine one, based on your experiences that approximate true excellence.

Our lives flow imperfectly, and part of spirituality entails accepting the limitations of our life circumstances, as well as our personal limitations. But another part of spirituality calls us not be passive in front of our possibilities for improvement. How much of our lives do we spend in half-hearted efforts, doing the bare minimum required of us? Sometimes the minimum may be best, but more often we just take the lazy way out. Too much of the time, we shut our eyes to the possibilities and live a half-way life.

The practice of excellence invites us to embrace the very highest standards in our personal manifestations. We pursue excellence not only in our ethical or moral standards, such as integrity, steadfastness, courage, commitment, kindness, and tolerance, but also in our standards of perfection in action. The shining examples of people who exhibit uncompromising dimensions of excellence can help us set new benchmarks for ourselves. Stretching our own standards to aim higher than we currently reach draws us toward our possibilities, our evolution.

The potential field of excellence spans our entire life, from our most hidden thoughts and emotions, to our interactions with other people, to the practice of our profession. Those engaged in creative endeavors, like musicians, artists, and scientists, know when the creative energy has entered and brought excellence to their creations. Every moment of our lives offers a legitimate opportunity to ask ourselves “What does excellence demand of me in this situation?”

How does the pursuit of excellence relate to our spiritual life? It relates in two important ways. First, the practice of excellence requires attention: ongoing attention to be aware of opportunities for excellence, and focused attention during the manifestation to which we wish to bring excellence. And attention is one of the primary muscles we must strengthen to deepen our inner life.

Secondly, the source of true excellence is no less than the Divine Perfection itself. Conscience, our channel to the Divine Will, connects us with excellence. The practice of excellence opens our perceptions to recognizing, to intuiting what excellence requires in any situation, giving us an effective means for hearing our conscience. Self-centeredness beckons us to the subjective, easy way out and must be left behind. Objective excellence calls us to empty ourselves so that we can hear the voice of conscience and act in accord with the Tao. We can even say that when a person goes beyond herself in an act of real perfection, then God, the Divine Will acts through her. Not unlike the creations of the great masters such as Bach and Michelangelo, our smaller moments of perfection also endure. But great or small, perfection is perfection. Through its inherent relationship to the Divine, any act of perfection, empty of egoism and full of excellence, transcends time to enter the world’s eternal storehouse of the sacred. The pursuit of excellence calls us to a life of quality and offers us a way of direct service to the Great Perfection.


     

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