Obviously, we all need love. This post, however, is not about love, but about compassion and its complementary.

Compassion is when you see a person in misery and you begin to feel with her.

Compassion is when you pour your heart out, feel her pain and cry with her.

Compassion is when you you take the time to listen to, console and comfort her.

When does it happen?

It happens when you shift your focus from yourself to the others, when you make the time to stop, pay attention and take care.

Compassion is your empathic ability to respond to the needs of others and join them on their level to help them grow. Yet, compassion, is perhaps a moment too late. It is inspired by an outside event or a call.

What comes before that?

It is the very act of noticing the other person as she is, perhaps even at the peak of her strength.

Acknowledgement is about showing gratitude for her beaming attitude, praising her for diligent work, efforts or smiles.

Acknowledgement is about encouragement when the attitude, energy, mood or performance are still high (or at least not lacking).

Acknowledgement is about approval when things go well, when her will is strong so that she can go bravely through difficulties.

It is very important. 
Why?
Because we all have a basic need to be heard, seen, acknowledged and understood.

A smile or a sign of appreciation can go a long way, much longer than you can imagine. Their actings have a cumulative effect. Gratitude and appreciation leverage support a person receives for her job, learning new skills or going through hardships. It is much easier to fuel the fire of motivation and keep her going than to overcome the inertia when she fails and stops.

Open your eyes and begin to notice.
Express what you value in the efforts of others.
Show appreciation.
Spread kindness.
Not this day only, but every day.
It’s never too much.

In compassion you recognize the sameness, the other person becomes a part of you.
In appreciation you recognize the difference, the individual power and uniqueness of the other.

Compassion is reactive.
Appreciation is proactive.
They make a lovely pair together. A dance between similarity and difference will help you to flourish and grow.

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Kindness and appreciation. A great book on kindness is Why kindness is good for you, by David Hamilton. Highly recommended.

Compassion. You may listen to a short talk on compassion by Daniel Goleman, the author of Emotional intelligence:

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We learn from others.
We have family and friends.
We have teachers, mentors, supervisors, managers or bosses.
We have colleagues, politicians, media people, musicians, and stars.

We observe. We analyze. We model. We emulate.
We compare to others.

Without perhaps noticing, we keep dancing between two worlds.
One world is defined by Similarity or Sameness.
The other world is defined by Difference.

Similarity is Interdependence, Belonging, Sharing and Being a part of a Group.
Difference is Independence, Individuality and Self.

We want to belong to a family, community or a peer group. We want to be with others, share experiences and have fun. We want to be appreciated. And we want to be loved.

At the same time we want to explore the boundaries of Self. We want to mark who we are by the way we think, we look, we walk or we talk. We want to do things in particular ways, choose our likings, make own decisions and create. Above all, we want to love.

So, we need both, Similarity and Difference, Interdependence and Independence, Individuality and Belonging, to live happily and healthy. No doubt about that.

And the middle way is about the flow between these polarities, between giving and receiving, self-focus and focus-on-others, individual thought and cooperation, being an individual and a part of a group.

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We learn from others. We exist both as Selves and in relations to others.  And we compare.

It is impossible not to compare.

How else can we receive feedback?
How else can we measure progress to a baseline performance?
How else can we evaluate our growth?
How else can we identify the borders we want to transgress?
How else can we test new skills and practices?
How else can we determine which rules or ideas serve us or not?
How else can we define realistic goals?

We look to other people for inspiration, mentoring, help or example. Comparing to others gives us the necessary context  for growth. It also enables us to find out what is possible to achieve or whom we may choose to become. However, it gives us a partial view only. The other important view is to compare to ourselves. In a timeline. And we often forget to do that.

We forget to learn from ourselves.
We forget to measure the progress along our own journey.
We forget how much we have developed with respect to the starting point.
We forget our milestones and achievements on the way.

So, if you are tempted to review your progress, look back at who you were a month ago, one year ago, 5 years a go or 20 years ago. Any progress?

If we are not careful, it is easy to compare to others with a diminishing light, focussing on our inferiority. This may lead to thoughts of jealousy, envy, shame or guilt. And from that place, there is only a small step to unhealthy self-criticism and over-beating. If continued, we will likely pick the fruits of self-devaluation, low self-image and low self-esteem.

Now, imagine this.

Next time when you notice a big difference between yourself and others, just at the very moment you are so much tempted to think how unskilled, untalented you are or how much you suck, welcome and cherish a new thought. Do it consciously.

This thought tells you that what you are perceiving as a difference is merely a distinction.

And this distinction makes you – unique You.

You, who is welcome here, loved and appreciated.

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Other inspirational or educational posts:

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The image above shows a beautiful quilt by Inge Duin. See more of her works on www.ingeduin.nl.

 three

Here, I will share my conceptual outlook at the numbers One, Two and Three.

To understand that well you will need the foundation built in the two previous posts, one on Polarity and the other one on the Principle of Rhythm. Please read them first.

Imagine you are the only Being that exists.
There is you and nothing else.
It is a likely boring existence.

Say, you are a cell in the World which is the cell itself.

You are the White on the White canvas, including the canvas as well.

You are both a Thought and a Thinker of that Thought.

Anywhere you reach, through the medium of yourself, of course, there is only you. In fact, you are a Presence permeating yourself.

You are.

You cannot discriminate because there is only one Sameness expressed in what there is. There is no Difference yet.

The concept of One is Totality

You can also perceive One as Unity, or Sameness.

Metaphorically, you can understand One as God. You may also consider One as the Whole universe, or total Power.

Or, you perhaps remember your experience of One when you were a fetus developing in your mother’s womb for whom everything was a complete Whole. Even though you might have explored the boundaries of Self, there was no reference for you to understand what they were, simply because you had no experience of the outside. For you the boundaries was also the Self.

Totality may be both, the Conscious Presence such as Active Intent or the Unconscious Presence such as a Potential or Power to be exercised. In both cases, Totality is the Essence from which everything originates.

If Totality is unconscious it expands by practising the basic awareness until it develops the intent to think.  Thanks to this intent it will develop further on until it will become conscious. At this point, Totality will possibly become bored by being so same, homogeneous and All that is.

Totality will want to make a further progress by discriminating a part of itself. It may distinguish an aspect of Self from the rest, or it may distinguishes an aspect, such as Love, Sound or Matter.  By doing so, everything but this aspect will become distinguishable as well.

Polarity is born.

The concept of Two is Polarity

You can also perceive Two as Duality or Difference.

The act of bringing one aspect forward is the act of setting everything else in the background. It is the same as naming a feature or characteristic. It allows us to recognize it and distinguish from the other things.

Metaphorically, you can understand Two as God who establishes a companion for His higher feelings when he discriminates into the Loving Father and the beloved Son. Or you may consider Two as the Universe which becomes both Matter and Spirit. Or, perhaps you experience Two as being a child born to the World.

As such, Two is experienced when an opening is created or a difference is to be emphasized. It does not provide an interesting diversity as such. Although the task of Two is to notice the differences, their integration is difficult as it requires an extra step.

It is the movement between the polarities that gives the basic structure to our existence. You can think of it as of the swing between the opposites or,  you can perceive it as a threshold experience when you move from one polarity to another. Duality through action gives birth to Three.

The concept of Three is Active Diversity

You can also say Creativity.

It is both the action and the expression of a state between the polarities.

Metaphorically, you may consider Three as God who becomes Trinity. Holy Spirit is now introduced as the Active Person expressing Love between the Father and the Son. You may also consider Three as an Intent and/or Active Consciousness to move between levels from the Material to Spiritual Worlds. Or, you experience Three as a child interacting and playing in the outside world.

Three is an interesting phenomenon. Two expresses duality, polarity or difference. It is often passive. Three comes into existence through the act of interaction between the Two.

Three is something that is being created when the Two opposites become involved and act.

Three describes Stability

Three is a powerful concept. Three reflects not only diversity, but also stability and support.

A triangle is created by three sides and is the most basic geometric figure.
A three-legged chair is going to work well, while a stable two legged chair is impossible.
Three dimensions support the existence of life and complex systems.

The meeting point

Three is an expression of diversity. Three is an expression of novelty and creativity. Three is a direction.

Birth, life and death.
Past, present and future.
Beginning, middle and end.
Positive, neutral and negative.

Three allows us to introduce a meeting point, or a place in between. It can be the moment of Now being experienced between past and future. It can be the flow between beginning and end. Or it can be intuition arising as a creative act between emotions and rational thought.

Three simply allows us to experience the middle or in-between.

Three is completeness

Once you start paying attention, you will find triads or triplets cropping up everywhere – in language, in myths, in fairy tales, in Scripture, in culture and in society.

Three people are seen as suitable to make decisions, because they will have enough diversity to cover different points of views and when necessary to apply the majority vote. Three people are enough to form boards, commissions or crowds. Even statistics likes to see “three” as a container for “many”.

Not surprisingly, many laws, rules or ideas come in triads. Just to mention three laws of thermodynamics, the motto of France: liberty, equality, fraternity or the motto of Poland: God, honor and fatherland, or three virtues: faith, hope and love.

Many things in writing or storytelling are structured in threes. There are sayings or curses that have to be repeated 3 times before they become active. There are three trials to achieve a certain goal. There are three wishes to be granted. There also also three days or nights for an event or transformation to take place.

Examples of triads in stories include Three Wise Monkeys, Three Little Pigs, Three Musketeers, or Three Bears. In fairy tales there are usually three brothers, sons of a peasant or three daughters of a king. Two are often either stupid (boys) or ugly (girls), while one is smart / beautiful. And it is the third one that makes a difference: he will endure many tests to have finally become a new king or she will go through trials to be finally married by a Lovely Prince.

Summary

Three can be perceived in multiple ways. It can be a threshold experience between the Two polarities, a meeting point, or a new creation by the interaction of Two. Such a creation bears characteristics different than its ingredients, similarly as water is something completely novel in comparison to both oxygen and hydrogen.

Three offers a high-level synthesis, not by summing the Two components but by creatively designing something new. Three doesn’t negate polarity. Rather it accepts duality and represents a new element arising from the action between the opposites. And in this way, Three enables us to transcend duality.

Three is an experience of consciousness.

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Photo credit CLeopold73 available under Creative Commons on Flickr.

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Other posts on consciousness:

generalization

In the previous post I discussed some aspects of learning a concept from examples. We will now connect it to….

 

Generalization

Generalization is the ability to learn a concept or a class from a set of examples. In short, generalization is our way of capturing sameness or similarity between objects.

By “objects” we understand all kinds of entities, including physical objects, abstractions, experiences and so on that are elements of the class or belong to the concept of interest.

For instance, we can learn a concept of a bicycle with the objects being bicycles, as well as we can learn a concept of driving with the ‘objects’ being driving experiences.

Generalization is a truly remarkable skill of an intelligent mind. It is one of the basic principles of learning.

We are able to learn a general rule and apply it when needed. We are able to classify or categorize not only physical objects, but also ideas, abstractions, events, behaviors, approaches and people. We are able to recognize patterns from examples, determine the essence and categorize experiences.

Generalization is being used daily on all levels in your life. You can apply skills and abilities in the new context exactly because generalization is at work.  It is really powerful.

  • Isn’t that remarkable that once you know how to walk, you are soon able to run?
  • Isn’t that remarkable that once you can drive an individual car, you can drive (nearly) all other cars?
  • Isn’t that remarkable that once you know how to cook a few meals, you can cook a totally new meal, never tried before?
  • Isn’t that remarkable that once you know how to orient yourself with a map, you can follow maps in arbitrary situations?
  • Isn’t that remarkable that once you know a programming or human language, you can learn a different language much faster?

The stages of concept learning

A quilt by Inge Duin

Imagine that you are to learn how to recognize a particular object or to learn a concept. The stages of learning a concept are in fact the stages of generalization. These are:

  1. Typical examples. Study, observation or experimentation with a number of typical examples of the given class.
  2. Finding the patterns: seeing the differences and perceiving similarities. This is made possible because of our ability to compare.
  3. Concept creation. A first mental formulation of a concept of an object/class/notion. Grasping the basic essence. This is made possible because of our ability to reflect.
  4. Atypical examples. Study of atypical, uncommon and otherwise strange examples from the class. Refining of the concept.
  5. Borderline cases. Exploration of the negative examples (i.e. examples from outside of the class), especially of the borderline cases.
  6. Re-definition of the concept.
  7. Abstraction. A new level of understanding. The essence is found.

Abstraction may develop without your conscious intent. It happens naturally when you reach a good understanding of  the class or concept of interest. Such an understanding is built when you engage in active learning, i.e. thinking, experimentation, reflection and evaluation. Abstraction occurs when you develop a mental image/sound or internal feeling of the class.

Some researchers think that such a class representation relies on a single prototype or a set of prototypes that somehow capture the idea of the class. Sometimes a prototype can be defined by a set of features, but it is usually much more than that. Features offer a limited scope and may vary from example to example.

A prototype  is meant to be an internal representation of the class. It likely combines visual, auditory, olfactory and kinesthetic modalities. Moreover, such a representation includes an emotional component, i.e. feelings that the concept evokes in you or emotionally strong events that took place when you had a related experience. In addition, such a representation may be equipped with a graph of structural dependencies and be hierarchical in order to reflect levels of importance or degree of detail.

Recognition

Testing is the next step after you have derived a concept of a class. It is called recognition. A good recognition does not necessarily prove that you have created an accurate and factual concept. The quality of your recognition depends on the quality of examples you consider for testing, i.e. whether they are a mixture of easy (typical) and challenging ones (border cases).

There are two types of errors you can make, called false positive and false negative errors. False positive are examples that you recognize as belonging to the class of interest while in fact they are not the member of that class. An example is an orange recognized as a ball by a child. After noticing such boundary examples you need to update your concept so that you will exclude such cases in the future (e.g fruits are not balls).

The second type of error is the false negative error which occurs when you miss to name a particular object as a member of the class, while in fact it belongs there . This suggests that you have not included a sufficient variety of examples when you were building your concept.

Concept learning is an ongoing process

If you think you learned a concept, you are wrong. We are living in a developing world and this asks us to continuously update, reformulate or even abandon our concepts by taking new developments and personal experiences into account. For instance, the concept of a telephone or TV you learned, say 20-40 years ago, is really outdated by now. Or the concept of friendship (which refers here to the class of friendship experiences) you developed in your childhood is not going to serve you in your thirties or later. You need to update your concepts by more recent examples.

Concept learning and recognition run in cycles

The concepts you develop are never fixed. They are solid, however, in the sense that they are built from concrete examples leading to specific representations of the classes. But, they are subjected to change.

In fact, you are always in the process of concept learning, recognition and concept re-learning, even though you don’t follow it consciously. These two stages are intertwined and you run them in cycles. You learn a concept and you test it. As long as your examples do not contradict your concept or challenge you with novel perceptions, your concept remains unchanged. If, however, you find a surprising example, you will decide whether the concept should to be re-learned or not.

You need to pay attention to noticing these interesting examples and be ready and prepared to modify your learned concept. At some point you will see that novel examples occur for which your concept definition does not work well. These are the moments in which you observe how your false positive or false negative errors increase. So, you are encouraged to include such examples in the concept formation process.

In addition, you may mentally weight your examples depending on some importance factor (that you define for yourself) or the time you collected them. Perhaps, you may even neglect early examples as they are not relevant any longer. For instance, concerning the concept of friendship, you may like to include examples of your friends from your primary school but they may have a much less weight than the examples from your last years of life.

Summary

Generalization supports us in learning on all levels. The use of generalization requires an open mind, however, able and prepared to question and redefine the derived concepts, if needed. Any concept we learn in our life is temporary. We change and the world changes as well. This means that our general rules, concepts and learned ideas are in operation until e.g. we find a surprise or a contradiction. This is a sign that points us to reformulation of the concept or perhaps even abandoning it.

What is essential is the meta ability of a conscious mind to pay attention and to notice outliers. As long as we remain flexible in our learning, open to questioning and re-learning, we will use generalization well.

Practise generalization with a conscious effort.

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Top photo courtesy Fe Langdon, available under the Creative Commons license on Flickr.
The middle image shows a beautiful quilt by Inge Duin. See www.ingeduin.nl for more details.

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Learning and generalization posts: