Unlikely friendships

This week I got a movie recommendation. I haven´t had the chance to watch the movie yet, but from what I´ve heard, it´s a typical story of two people coming from different backgrounds who don´t seem to have anything in common, yet they end up developing a very special friendship.

The hands of two people bumping fists sideways

I have to say I always found this kind of stories really interesting; stories about unlikely yet meaningful friendships.

For example, I remember a teenage TV show from the nineties that I used to love, most of all for the seemingly random interactions between different characters, and for how they ended up becoming friends without even noticing (or sometimes reluctantly noticing). It was titled "My so-called life", and even though it only lasted one season, it left us a few scenes that I personally consider masterpieces.

This picture shows (in low resolution, apologies) a few of the characters:

Image from TV show "My so-called life" where a group of friends spending time together in a room

I especially remember a conversation between the two boys from the picture, Brian Krakow (the blond one) and Rickie Vasquez (the dark haired one), where they spend a good few minutes supposedly talking to each other, but with each of them obsessing over a different topic, just as if they were talking to themselves in turns (how often in our lives do we do that as well?); initially it seems like they´re each doing their own thing, but eventually you realize somehow they´ve been listening and supporting each other... Sometimes, simply getting someone to listen to you and keep you company is what makes all the difference.

And sometimes, it´s surprising how much you may get to have in common with someone apparently very different from you, and how much you can get to learn, precisely from your differences. In my particular case, a few of those first "unlikely friendships" came into my life just by chance, but they opened my mind so much and I got so much out of them that at a certain point I started looking for them myself, if unconsciously.

So, what´s the benefit of having diverse friendships, from different environments, with different lifestyles and even different ages? Well, taking into account that humans very often learn by contrast, getting to know other perspectives and other ways to understand life is a great help towards expanding our own little world, and realizing that the way we do things is not the only possible way by any means, but just another option among many other equally valid ones. This gives us more flexibility and resources to face everyday challenges, and ultimately helps us to live a fuller life.

In reality, it all comes back to the same: the more we learn about ourselves and those around us, the more we understand, the less we judge, and the freer we become.

All of this without forgetting just how wonderful it is to have friends with whom you can share (Thanks!) 🙂

As I already mentioned a couple of years ago in another post, "friendship comes in all shapes and sizes".


About two years ago, shortly after starting this re-incarnation of BinaryWords, my friend María gave me a piece of advice: putting together a calendar to plan when to write the blog articles. I thought it was a really good idea, and simplifying it to make it a bit easier for myself, I decided to write a new blog post every week.

Old typewriter keyboard

Two years later, I have to say I´m proud of being able to keep this cadence. Though I do have to confess that, given my tendency to leave certain things until the last moment, my "weekly post" strategy quickly became "Sunday night´s post", reaching the point when there are literally no more hours in the week 🙂

But the strategy served me well, and still does. Not breaking my promise is what motivates me to sit down in front of the keyboard every Sunday, no matter where I am, or whether I feel like writing or not. I´ve written posts from airports, trains, country homes, and even from an inflatable mattress in my friend´s living room. Very often I´ve run into the early hours of the morning, technically getting the publication done on the Monday. But that´s not the point; the point is that the posts have continued to publish.

And I´ve continued to write.

Even when I didn´t feel like it.

Like today, for example.

And this is something that happens in every field: do you think athletes feel like going to their training sessions every day? Even when the weather is bad, when they feel physically unwell, or when they´re demotivated? No way. But they do it regardless, because they know it´s important to be consistent; it´s what allows them to make progress towards their goals.

And when I say athletes, I could say anything really; any activity that we take seriously and want to make progress on requires consistency: painting, writing, exercising, playing an instrument... All of this, of course, requires discipline, but there are also a few tricks that may help us:

  • Make it easy for yourself: set a realistic goal for your activity, book specific time in your calendar for it, and aim to reduce as much as you can the effort required to get started. For example, if you´re planning to go for a run in the morning, the previous evening you can prepare your clothes, place your runners by the door, etc.
  • Don´t think about it: us human beings are specialists at making emotional decisions and then justifying them rationally. If you start overthinking it and bargaining with yourself, you´re almost certain to find reasons not to do the activity. It´s time to do it, and that´s what it is, go for it!
  • Do it, even if it´s just a little bit: the hardest part of all is getting started, so if you find that you´re not motivated enough to complete the full activity, at least commit to doing part of it, like for example, running for five minutes. When time is up, give yourself permission to stop (if you still need it), or to continue, which will probably be a lot easier now that the initial resistance barrier has been broken.

What about you? How good are you at consistency? In which areas of your life do you find it easier to stay consistent, and in which ones it´s more difficult? What motivates you to get started even on days when you don´t feel like it?

Let´s remember the words of Pablo Picasso, referencing the arts in this case, but applicable to any goal or objective in life:

Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.

Pablo Picasso

For no reason

One difference between countries that Spaniards see very clearly when moving to Ireland is the time variation. And I´m not talking about how in the Emerald Isle it´s an hour earlier than in the Iberian peninsula (though it is, we´re in the same time zone as the Canary Islands), but the time of the day when we usually do certain things.

For example, in Ireland, people usually have lunch and dinner much earlier than in Spain, and shops also close earlier, for the most part. My explanation for this is that in Spain, due to the good weather, life is much more outdoor-based, and we go to bed later, while in Ireland, people go back home much earlier in the day, especially during the winter, when days are much shorter, and it gets dark pretty early.

This is something worth remembering when visiting Ireland: even tourist attractions and museums (and coffee shops!) close really early compared to the Spanish standard, typically around five or six pm at most.

Except one night a year.

Culture Night. «La noche en blanco», which took place just this past Friday.

It´s an evening where museums and other places of interest are open until late, access is free (although some places require booking), and there are programmed cultural activities all over the country.

I´m a big fan of Culture Night, so last Friday, I made my way to Dublin city centre, ready to roam and snoop around a bunch of exciting places. This time I visited the City Hall, where I was able to listen to a lovely choir, the State Apartments of Dublin Castle where the viceroy used to live, back in the old times (it had never occurred to me that Ireland had a viceroy), and a Zen Buddhist centre in Temple Bar, where I took part in a zazen meditation.

And it was there, in the zen centre, where I heard the idea that inspired today´s headline. A Buddhist priest explained to us the basic principles of this branch of Buddhism, which has meditation as its core practice, and he placed a lot of emphasis on the premise that, for them, meditation doesn´t have any particular purpose: there´s nothing to achieve, nothing to aspire to, no chasing illumination. You meditate for no reason. You just sit down. That´s it.

For no reason.

Framed picture on a wall, says "Embrace your journey" in black handwritten-like letters; the background is an old world map

Obviously, that´s not all; it´s just the starting point. In reality, there´s always a reason. For everything. That reason, that motivation, is what moves us to do what we do. But I think I understand what they mean: this kind of meditation is based on staying in contact with reality without blocking our senses (in fact, our eyes must remain open throughout, which confused me a bit) and confronting reality face to face, instead of trying to abstract ourselves and escape from it. But as soon as we set a goal for our meditation and create an expectation of the result we want to achieve, we´re moving away from the present reality.

I found this approach really interesting, and I also got to think about how society nowadays tells us that we must be productive all the time, that everything we do needs to have a reason behind, a purpose, a tangible benefit. Have you ever felt guilty of "wasting time"? - it used to happen to me a lot, and it still happens today. Some of us find it really difficult to slow down, and even harder to sit down and do nothing.

But when we finally get to do it, we begin to realize things.

I must admit that meditation is one of my pending items, and it´s been for many years. But who knows, maybe this time round, curiosity and the paradox of not having a goal will finally be what motivates me 😀

Would you like to start with me, just because, for no reason at all?

Annual check-up

Today it was time to take my car to the NCT (National Car Test), the Irish equivalent to the Spanish ITV (Inspección Técnica de Vehículos). The verdict was all OK except for one thing: the "ball joints" at the front right side, which are worn out and need to be replaced. I have to confess that I don't have the faintest idea about mechanics, let alone mechanics in English, so even if the dictionary tells me the Spanish term is "rótulas", I'm still completely clueless😀 Thankfully, the guys at the garage do know.

Anyway, thinking about this today, I realized that I would also benefit from an annual check-up, and I´m not talking about the doctor, the dentist or the optometrist (though those would also be good); I mean evaluating my life at this point in time, how things are going for me, what I´m happy about and what I´m not, and what I would like to change.

This can be done in many different ways; today, I´ve done it using a tool that´s both very simple and very powerful: the wheel of life.

It´s a graphical representation of our evaluation of the current moment in relation to different aspects of life. There are multiple versions with varying categories, scales, etc. The main idea is to choose the areas of life you consider most relevant, position them around a circle, score them individually, and then fill in the resulting "cobweb" to get a picture of the surface it covers.

Drawing of a "wheel of life" - eight segments representing different areas of life, and a graphical representation of a zero to ten score in each of them, creating a cobweb drawing

In this example, I´ve used a scale of zero to ten, positioning my eight chosen categories as radiuses of the wheel:

  • House / home / family
  • Health
  • Work
  • Friends
  • Love / relationships
  • Money
  • Hobbies
  • Personal growth

As you can see, it's a super simple exercise, very visual, but imagine how much can come out of it, as long as we're willing to be honest with ourselves and dig a bit deeper.

Then, once we have that "snapshot" of the current situation, there are many ways to work with the information it reveals. Ideally, the different areas in our wheel would be more or less balanced so that we can "roll" smoothly and effortlessly. Where is my wheel "limping" the most? Is there any area that needs immediate attention? What can I do to align it better?

Or, if nothing in particular stands out, but scores are generally low (or even if they're high, for there's always room for improvement), Where would I like to be in a year's time in each of these areas? And what could I start doing now in order to get me closer to that desired score? Once we have written a list of possible actions, it's better to prioritize them and start by focusing only on two or three; there will always be time to come back for more.

What do you think of this annual check methodology? Were you already familiar with the wheel of life, in this format or a different one? What categories have I not mentioned that you consider important?

Blue and green

Once again August is gone, and September has arrived; in many countries in the Northern Hemisphere it´s time to go "back to school", for kids and also for adults.

Ireland usually enjoys a few days of good weather at the beginning of September (which is officially considered autumn), and this weekend has seen a continuation of that tradition, so the girls and I have taken the opportunity to stretch that summer feeling a bit more before fully returning to the routine, and we´ve been out to see "blue and green", as my friend Bea would say 🙂

We took this picture today at the Blessington Lakes, a water reservoir located in county Wicklow which services Dublin and its surrounding areas. We started the day exploring the lake by kayak, then we went for lunch nearby with some friends (we even had churros for dessert!) and finished with a nice walk around the area, chatting along and enjoying the scenery.

Open air, exercise, tasty food, nature and good company; what else could we ask for?

When I first heard of this idea of going out to the "blue and green", I really loved it; I generally tend to stay at home a lot, probably too much, and I get lazy about going out, but I know very well that I feel much much better when I go out for walks: I recharge my physical, mental and emotional batteries. And if it´s a nice day and the surroundings are also nice, that´s the icing on the cake... Another friend of ours, Juanjo, used to call it "performing photosynthesis", and I also find that expression very fitting. It´s incredible how much a simple walk out in the open air can improve our mood.

Blue and green. Green and blue.

Today, when I got to think about writing this post, what came to my mind was a song by U2, Beautiful Day, which says "see the world in green and blue". This particular line was inspired by a sentence that astronaut Neil Armstrong said while looking at the Earth from the Moon. And the song, in general, encourages us to find joy in the small things of life, even when we´re going through a rough patch.

What about you? What helps you to recharge your batteries? Do you enjoy seeing the blue and green? What´s your favourite landscape?

"It´s a beautiful day… Don´t let it get away".

Time to reflect

Happy Easter to all of those celebrating 🙂

A text message from a good friend the other day (thanks Ara!) brought me back to the way I used to spend Easter weekend as a teen and young adult: in a retreat at a convent called El Palancar.

"El Palancar" convent (Extremadura, Spain) seen from a group of rocks high on a hillside

La Pascua del Palancar was a retreat for young people organized by Franciscan brothers from the Betica province, from Holy Thursday until Easter Sunday. The main theme was obviously religious, as it happened with most spiritual events back then, but there was more to it: it was a wonderful opportunity to switch off from the noise and haste of daily life (even if mobile phones didn´t exist yet!) and get more deeply connected to Life, Nature, our travel companions, and ultimately ourselves.

Now that I think of it, these were probably my first steps along the path of self-discovery and personal development.

During the three and a half days of the event, most of the activities were done in company, either in one big group or divided into smaller groups. But there was one, on the Saturday afternoon, which was different: they called it the desertand it was a time slot of about two hours for which they encouraged us to find a quiet place for contemplation and personal reflection. You can imagine how challenging that could be for some of the teenagers: two hours on their own, without talking to anybody!

I remember I always climbed up the rocks on the side of the hill, up to a place very similar to the one in the photo: from there I could see the convent down in the distance, surrounded by the characteristic landscape of Extremadura in the springtime. I was carrying a notebook, a pen, and a piece of paper with a few questions as a guide. But apart from that, nothing.

Silence. Nature. Time and space to allow everything I had inside to come out.

I loved that feeling.

And up there, in that little corner of the world, the two hours would go by, breathing, thinking, writing... Then at some point I would start hearing voices down in the distance, maybe also the strings of a guitar, and I would realize it was almost time to return to the world. I felt like Saint Peter in that passage from the Bible about the transfiguration, when he says to Jesus: Lord, it is good for us to be here, let´s put up a shelter, and Jesus explains that they can´t stay in contemplation at the top of the mountain, they need to go down again and continue with their mission on the ground.

Sometimes we get so sucked into this world we live in, that we lose contact with what matters most to us. But if every now and then we take a break to go up the mountain, then we will listen to our inner voice again, and it will guide us to get back on track. It´s been many years since I last went to El Palancar, and my "mountain" these days sometimes takes the shape of a beach, but the idea is the same: a little bit of time, solitude and silence, and the answer appears.

What about you? When was the last time you listened to your inner voice? And what would it say to you today, if you stopped to listen?


Every time of the year has its own traditions, and nowadays in the Northern hemisphere, it´s time for the autumn ones.

In Cáceres (Spain), where I was born and raised, the first day of November is known as “chestnuts day”. It´s All Saints day, which is followed by All Souls day, when many families visit the cemeteries to remember the loved ones who are no longer here.

When I was a child we didn´t know anything about Halloween, or Diwali, or even the Mexican Dia de los Muertos traditions. And my family doesn´t usually visit the cemetery. But what we did do every year around this time was roasting chestnuts, so yummy!

Raw chestnuts

As years go by and we get older, we have the option to continue certain traditions, park them if they no longer make much sense to us, or transform them according to what we consider important. I keep many good memories (and a stack of photos, developed on paper!) from my secondary school and college times, when our group of friends used to go out on a trip to a nearby field to roast chestnuts. Then years later, when we arrived in Ireland, we were fascinated by the Halloween celebrations, especially in their most original celtic version, which includes bonfires, as well of other traditions that had arrived from Noth America, like trick or treating or carving pumpkins.

But even here in Ireland and surrounded by Halloween spirit, almost every year we still get together with a handful of irreducible Spaniards to celebrate a “castanyada”, as the Catalans call it, sometimes having a really hard time trying to find chestnuts to roast 😃 Though in reality it doesn´t matter, the chestnuts are just one more excuse to get together, the same way that we get together at the beginning of the summer to celebrate Saint John and “skip over the bonfire”.

Now in more recent years, thanks to living in a multicultural neighbourhood and having work colleagues from India, we have also learned about the tradition of Diwali, the triumph of light over darkness, which makes a lot of sense at this time of the year when the days get shorter and the nights seem to last forever. We have just changed the clocks here in Europe, next week it will be America´s turn, and the dark evenings seem to invite us all to enter hibernation mode.

That´s why I Iove Diwali lights, Halloween lights and even Christmas lights (despite it being a bit too early for those), I think they add a spark of joy at such a grey time of the year… At the end of the day, deep down, everything comes back to the same; lights and shadows, hope in seeing that darkness is temporary, and that better times are definitely coming.

We keep traditions because they give us a sense of familiarity, of comfort, of security. But as it happens with everything in life, if we take them too seriously, they can end up becoming a source of stress rather than a source of enjoyment, so let me leave you with a couple of quotes I like about this topic:

Just because something is traditional is no reason to do it, of course.

Lemony Snicket, The Black Book

Tradition is a guide and not a jailer.

W. Somerset Maugham

What about you? What traditions, new or old, do you have planned for this autumn?

Brand new website

Ladies and gentlemen, the moment has come…

BinaryWords is no longer just a blog, now it´s a full-blown website!

Purple banner with the BinaryWords logo and a number of electronic devices showing different images: colours, landscape, clock and calendar, yoga at sunset, hands making a heart shape, target circles

A new phase is now starting for me: the personal project I kicked off a little over a year is now also turning into a professional adventure, and I´m taking my first steps along this new path with a great deal of excitement (and a little bit of vertigo, as one would expect).

From now on, in addition to sharing my weekly thoughts, which I will of course continue to do, I´m offering you my services as a professional life coach . And soon you will start to see appearing on this website new content, workshops, and courses that will allow you to dig deeper into the art of reprogramming your life.

For the moment, I hope that what you see here resonates with you; feel free to explore the pages and articles already published and send me your feedback, so that I can continue to learn and improve. And as always, thanks a million for reading me, and keep an eye out for exciting news…

Uncomfortable conversations

I recently read somewhere (sorry, I don´t remember where exactly) that in order to keep healthy relationships, you need to have uncomfortable conversations every once in a while. This applies to all kinds of relationships.

It makes sense, right? Disagreements and conflict are inherent to human beings, and it´s the way we manage them that makes the difference.

But, what happens when you´re so afraid of conflict that you try to avoid it at all costs?

Hello, my name is Bea, and I´m a conflict avoider.

Two people having a conversation in the street, only their hands and arms are visible, their faces are not shown

I´ve spent many years tiptoeing through life in order not to bother anyone, not to create conflict. Many years acting as if certain problems did not exist, in the hope that they would sort themselves out.

So, you can imagine what happens, right? They DON´T sort themselves out, even though sometimes it looks like they do. To really solve a problem you have to bring it out into the light, you have to talk about it, otherwise the discomfort stays there, under the surface, until the day it inevitably comes out again.

So, what can we do then? Three things come to mind:

  • Accept conflict as something natural: we each have our own needs, opinions and ways to do things, which sometimes clash with those of other people.
  • Not take it personally: one thing that helps a lot is focusing on the problem itself, instead of what we perceive that the other person “is doing to us”.
  • Find a good way to communicate, so that we can convey our needs and wants to the other person, and listen to theirs, in a respectful and non-violent way.

When my daughters were small, I used to play for them a song in Spanish by Miliki, the lyrics translate to something like “Talking is how people understand each other, and that way everything works better…” Nowadays I still sing it to them sometimes, and also to myself, as a reminder that none of us are mind readers, and that issues need to be talked about.

And you? Do you also avoid conflict? What uncomfortable conversation have you been trying to avoid?


Do you consider yourself to be a sensitive person?

I´ve been asking myself that question for a few days now… I don´t think I ever thought of it before.

Close up of a brightly red flower against a blurred dark green background

They say that you learn something new every day, and the other day I learned, through a friend and colleague from my master´s degree (thanks Idoia!) that approximately 20% of the world population are estimated to be something denominated highly sensitive persons, or HSPs.

The nervous system of a highly sensitive person is more evolved than the average, which causes their brain to receive a much higher amount of sensory information. This is not an illness or a psychological disorder, it´s simply a personality trait. And like any other aspect of personality, becoming aware of it is really useful in order to understand ourselves better, in this case realizing that some people live their emotions in a different, and much more intense, way than others.

According to Dr. Elaine Aron, who coined the term HSP (translated into Spanish as personas altamente sensibles, or PAS), there are four basic characteristics that highly sensitive people manifest:

  • Depth of processing (profundidad de pensamiento) - they have a tendency to process the information they receive very deeply and intensely, which leads them to spend a lot of time reflecting on things and going over them.
  • Overstimulation (sobreestimulación) - given that they receive so many sensorial stimuli, they can get to the point of overstimulation, or sensitive saturation, especially when they have to process a lot of information in a short period of time.
  • Emotional reactivity (reactividad emocional) - they live their emotions in a much more intense way, both the pleasant and the unpleasant ones, and they also have a great ability for empathy, being able to feel what others around them are feeling.
  • Sensing the subtle (sensibilidad a las sutilezas) - their heightened sensitivity allows them to detect subtle changes that others may miss, such as small changes in the environment, or in other people´s moods.

On top of these four central characteristics, there are a number of complementary ones that many HSPs identify themselves with, and some of them are really interesting. I´m not going to list them all here, so as not to make this post too long; if this topic has piqued your curiosity (as it did mine), I encourage you to continue to investigate.

But there´s one particular aspect that I think is important to highlight here: many HSPs often get the feeling that they don´t fit in, that they´re the “the odd one out”, and they´re not going to be able to find others they can truly connect with… More often than not, their extra dose of sensitivity comes together with an extra dose of suffering, due to not understanding what´s happening to them, or why they´re different.

This is why I thought it was worth contributing to spreading the word on this topic. Because of that, and also because every time I read another article or watch another TED talk on HSPs, I find even more things that resonate with me 🙂

So, going back to the original question…

Do you consider yourself to be a sensitive person?