Pursuing Excellence

Every unexpected and frustrating event gives us a chance to practice and get closer to excellence.

Pursuing Excellence
Photo by Flash Dantz / Unsplash

One of the things that have been on my mind a lot is: if I were to die in a week, what would be my biggest regret? Every time my answer is the same: I am not excellent yet. But people die one day, so for me, life is in some ways a race against death and reality to break through that finish line called excellence before they do. When I know I've arrived there, I think I can cope with whatever death and reality want to do to me.

When I was studying Zen in the past, I learned that Zen emphasizes being present. As it happens, the thing I grew up with the most confidence in myself was my ability to focus. I think I can read a Physics book with more focus than any Zen master. But then I realized that maybe Zen's focus was not just about the focus on one thing, but about the focus on life as a whole. In normal days, it is easy to focus on one thing. However, life is full of challenges, and how to remain focused on the whole of life in the face of these challenges is the real problem that is difficult and important. And I thought, maybe only this kind of focus can bring us to the realm of excellence.

Three years ago, I lost my focus on the whole of my life. My mind was still spinning and thinking, but I spent more time thinking about things I couldn't control and letting my emotions run amok in my head. I used my problem-solving skills on the wrong problems, even in the wrong ways. This made me realize that my Zen's practice was not yet at home and that I needed to take a step closer to practice.

When the COVID19 pandemic outbreak hit the U.S. three months ago, and I watched my best friends leave our residence hall one by one to their home countries, I noticed that I was losing my focus on excellence and even had an urge to fight COVID19. Thankfully, this time I quickly get my focus back on what's really important to me and what I should be doing right now.

We are not borne excellent, and most of us may not even be able to achieve it. But every unexpected and frustrating event gives us a chance to practice and get closer to excellence. Although I hate this type of practice, I am grateful for the opportunity.