A few days ago, I was davening shachris alone in my apartment as usual, feeling that familiar sense of subtle guilt because my kevana is nowhere near the level I would hope for, because I am running late for class and that knowledge refuses to evaporate even though I am talking to the Creator of the Universe, because I have a thousand worries and a hundred things to do.
And then suddenly I became aware of something: a swaying motion, my body moving slowly back and forth in a trance-like rhythm. My lips move soundlessly and my body swings slightly and I wonder: what am I doing? So I stop.
A blank space opens up and silence reigns for a moment.
I look into my siddur and pick up my tefillah from where I left off—but I hold my body still. And suddenly there is more space—space for the words to have meaning, space for my brain to breathe and comprehend, space for more emotion to seep through.
I realize: the shuckeling was only impeding my tefillos. The movement allowed me to believe that I was concentrating, that it, in and of itself, proved that I was attentive to my prayers, while in reality it merely provided a distraction, something for my body to do so that my brain could wander where it shouldn’t.
When I hold my body still there is nothing for my mind to do but focus on the words I am saying, nothing for my heart to do but listen.
This Rosh Hashana I will attempt a new feat. While my emotions soar and plummet, while my intellect ascends to the heights of truth, while my spirit grows and my being shrinks—my body will be standing still.