I just came back from a two-week holiday in Bulgaria. We enjoyed a week by the sea and a week in the mountains. While the week by the sea went by so fast, in the mountain, time seemed to have come to a halt. It felt incredibly relaxing. It pulled me out from my regular routines, and I found myself floating with the day, without any plans or anything I needed to “do” on that day. It disconnected me from my life, my usual thought patterns as well as from my usual dietary patterns. I just went with the flow and allowed myself to let go of my own constraints of what I “should” be eating and doing. I ate whatever was available, and I did whatever my heart desired. Sometimes my heart desired to do “nothing” and my body desired local, fresh food, even if that meant food I usually don’t consume. It made me think. Oftentimes we don’t allow ourselves to truly be present, to submerge ourselves in our environment and to just enjoy it AS IT IS. We tend to want to try to remodel it to fit our own view of a hospitable or healthy environment. I am not going to lie if I tell you that I also tend to do this sometimes. But not on this holiday. As I just let all my expectations go as I opened up to experiencing the beauty of what is around me.
We would wake up slowly and spend about 40 minutes in bed playing with our toddler. We’d then go in the kitchen, have a cup of coffee and some fresh, seasonal fruits for breakfast. Mornings felt long and relaxing. We’d then go for a hike in the forest. It all felt just as a holiday should feel – relaxing and it distanced us from our usual routine.
If you have never been to the Rhodope mountain in South of Bulgaria, then I encourage you to explore it. This place is filled with brimming, loving energy. It feels as this big mountain just wants to give you a warm hug. We saw plenty of sheep on the fields next to our house. It reminded me of the old days, when I was a child and used to spend a month each summer in the mountain with my grandparents.
Now, here is the place where you can find real, Bulgarian sheep yogurt. And by real, I mean the one, that is made by happy sheep that graze on herbs all day, and that is cultured with the special bacteria, called lactobacillus bulgaricus as it originates from this land. As you know, I usually abstain from consuming dairy, but this yogurt is something else. And I just had to have it. The yogurt tastes nothing like the yogurt you’ll find in the supermarket. It is quite sour, and has a distinct texture. It transported me back to that place when I was a child and my grandmother would prepare us sheep yogurt with wild blueberry jam for breakfast.
On our hikes, I often drifted into random thoughts. Oftentimes the thoughts just revolved around the appreciation of nature, the beauty of the present moment and a growing feeling of gratitude.
To make it brief, this holiday managed to pull me out of my usual routine. My day is usually pretty structured and my diet is quite “safe” (meaning I try to eat only foods that I know how they make me feel). I find that having a routine can be very grounding and lead to an increased productivity. By following my morning routine at home, which involves warm water with lemon, a shower and a quick meditation, I feel prepared to face my daily challenges with integrity and concentration. Where as if I skip my daily routines, I feel as if my entire day is a chaos, and I find it more difficult to concentrate and to be productive. The same goes for my diet. By eating around the same time every day, and being conscious of my food choices, I find I have more energy and less digestive issues.
With all that said, having a daily routine is important to bring more structure to your day and to improve productivity and concentration. We oftentimes perform our tasks by a habit. Our body and mind seek a habitual performance, as it actually saves energy this way. To illustrate this think of the time when you learned how to drive – when this was a new task to you, you were so concentrated on this task, that you were not able to do anything else while you were driving. In fact, you were so concentrated on driving, that after you were done you felt tired by this task. Look at yourself now – you can drive long hours, and while you’re driving (hey, and even parking!), you can have a conversation with the person next to you, you can change the radio station, and you can even have your lunch while at the wheel (not something I recommend though). This is the power of habit and routine.
But as everything in this life seeks a balance, so does routine. It is important to break the routine once it is established, to shake things up, and see it with fresh eyes. Does it serve you the way it did at the beginning? Does it make you feel good? Is there a better routine you can adapt?
I found myself asking these questions in regards to my own routine, even to my own diet. I was paying a close attention to how I felt during this holiday and to how I feel now that I am back to my usual day. I have adapted a few new things in my routine, and I have congratulated myself when acknowledging which parts of my routine work really well for my wellbeing.
I invite you to examine your own routine, study it, then disconnect from it and see which parts serve you most and which ones you can remove. This exercise is truly liberating, for we are creatures of habit, and as you realize which habits run you, you have the power to change them for the better.