The sound of the cantor’s voice echoes off the walls. It is still drizzling outside on this Shabbat morning. I sway in harmony with the other women, all deep in prayer. The women’s section is a sea of dark blue, magenta and coral dresses.

My mind wanders, “What would it have been like if the fertility treatments would have worked?” No! Stop! I tell myself. You are going down the rabbit hole again ...

In his foundational book of Chassidic thought, the Tanya (Chapter 27), Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (the Alter Rebbe) teaches that when a thought comes to distract us from the task at hand, we have to do a spiritual push-up to thrust it away with both of our hands.

In the Shema prayer, we say, “Don’t follow after your heart and your eyes, lest you go astray.” It doesn’t matter if I am praying or trying to focus on something else. If a thought comes to derail me, I must push it away, and not let it lead me astray.

Sometimes, I work hard to transform these wandering thoughts by turning my prayers into precisely those requests that I long so much for. But other times, like now, I know that these straying thoughts are not motivating me, but just taking me away from the words and ideas of my prayers.

And so, when I stop my mind from being distracted by these thoughts, I perform this mitzvah of “not following.” Our rabbis taught, “Someone who sits tight and does not sin is rewarded just like someone who fulfilled a mitzvah.” If so, I can celebrate fulfilling a mitzvah by not doing exactly the same as if I had fulfilled a mitzvah by doing.

I flip the page in my siddur. “She would be 2 months old.” Here I go again ...

I feel discouraged and close my prayer book. The Alter Rebbe says that even if we need to spend all day doing spiritual push-ups, we should feel the joy of knowing that with each thrust, we are making the negative forces combust. With each spiritual push-up, we are serving G‑d and allowing new light to enter the world.

I start the Amidah prayer. “Would I have brought her to shul today, or I would have been at home?” I do a spiritual push-up; I push the thought from my head, and my face radiates light. Don’t get disheartened. These constant distracting thoughts aren’t my spiritual weakness; this is my path to G‑d. With each thrust I am allowing G‑d’s endless light to shine into the world.

Why did the Alter Rebbe say with both hands? Perhaps one is to push out the thought from my conscious mind and the other my subconscious.

It’s time to get both hands involved in this mitzvah. Time to regulate, observe, check my intention and proceed.

I take a deep breath and self-regulate by counting 10 blue things in the room and letting my prefrontal cortex have the floor.

I observe, “What is going on with me?” Oh, shul is a trigger for me with small children running around. I can expect thoughts like this to pop up. These thoughts aren’t coming up because they are an urgent matter that I must immediately deal with, I am just being triggered.

What is my intention? I came here to pray, and I want to allow myself to focus on the words and get a spiritual recharge for the week.

So, proceed, I tell myself. I pick up my book and as I bow in the concluding prayer, “Aleinu leshabayach.” “Maybe, if next time we ... ”

I interrupt my daydream. My intention is to have a spiritual recharge.

I grab a friend’s hand and sing the last words of the prayer service, “Do not fear ... .”

Fear nothing at all, not even my psyche.

Once my intention is set, doing a spiritual push-up is sweet and inspiring, as it reminds me why I don’t want to allow foreign thoughts to invade this moment. I don’t get upset at myself or feel vanquished; I simply keep trying, over and over again. For I am reminded about why I want to give this moment my all: to bring G‑d’s light into our world.