I am drowning in stress. The alarm clock goes off before the morning sun peers into the room. My mind is immediately flooded with all the things the upcoming day might bring.

But I have been preparing for this. The Rebbe’s teachings have illuminated a path through this.

Noach was commanded to “come into the ark.” The Baal Shem Tov explains that teva, the Hebrew word for ark, can also be translated as “word.” The command can thus also be read as, “come into the word”—the words of Torah and prayer. The ark is the refuge from the flood waters of non-stop demanding thoughts.

Before engaging with the physical world, I enter into the ark, I learn words of Torah that uplift my heart. I become real with G‑d in the service of the heart (prayer) and focus on gratitude.

Then, Noach was commanded to leave the ark. I, too, must leave the world of Torah and prayer, and enter into the day. But when Noach left the ark, it was not the dysfunctional world he had left behind. He opened the door and beheld a brand-new world.

Before study and prayer, my life can look fragmented, the pieces forever trying to come into sync. Blessings look like curses, simple problems make my head spin, and small tasks seem insurmountably difficult.

It’s like trying to “fix” somebody. You look at this person at their worst and want nothing more than to change them. But it never works. That is what it is like trying to elevate the world before we have entered the ark. All we see is a mess, a complete disaster.

But have you ever seen the potential within someone and become so dedicated to seeing the good within them that it just bursts forth?

When I leave the ark of my morning prayers, it’s a beautiful world—one that I can work with and add light to. One that doesn’t overwhelm me; rather, the waves of new challenges develop my creativity and pique my curiosity. “Where will this next wave bring me?” I wonder. Now I can go through my “To Do” list with eyes of love and appreciation for being given the opportunity to be a part of this world.

My early-morning routine is to pray, teach my seminary students a Tanya class and pick up fresh produce for the day from the market. It may seem like three tasks whose order is fluid and interchangeable. And sometimes, my animalistic soul tells me to just pray after class; what’s the big deal?

But in my lived experience, it makes a world of difference.

When I enter the world before entering the ark, the world of prayer, then I turn to my students and colleagues for my sense of self. Do they like my class? Do they like me? Am I being professional? Running a minute late has a way of making me feel unworthy of existence.

The other woman browsing the avocado stand in hope of the one ripe avocado is my competition. The other customers trying to check out are an inconvenience in the trajectory of my day.

But after entering into ark consciousness, it is a brand-new world. I have been infused with the truth of “happy is the one who trusts in you.” Oh, I am running a minute late. I trust I am exactly where I need to be.

My slideshow isn’t working, again! Who needs to appear professional, just love them and let G‑d flow through you, an inner voice is primed to whisper.

A young bright-eyed woman has a question that is going to throw me way off the lesson plan. I just can’t ignore it, so best to strike while the iron is hot. I trust that my students are here to teach me every day.

The veggie section is packed. It is a party, new faces to smile at and schmooze with as I grab a hot pepper or two.

Life has spice and is exciting as I look out at the raging waters from within the safety of the ark. The waters don’t drown me; rather, with each wave, the ark gets lifted higher. They are a learning curve, a plot twist in an epic movie.

As I open my computer and start my work, my blue worn-out siddur on the shelf seems to wink at me and we share a laugh. I am forever grateful to my grandmother for buying me my first siddur some 10 years ago. I once heard that a siddur falling apart is a sign of someone who isn’t. My siddur and I both know that my morning could have gone one of two ways, and I’m grateful that I had my infusion of ark consciousness to allow me to be the person whom I want to show up.

Words of prayer and Torah turn me from a passenger and spectator in life to a driver with a live GPS. And … if the waves begin to seem higher and my breath gets shorter, I know where to go to recharge. The afternoon prayers, another pick me up of “ark consciousness” is just around the corner.

Sources: Keter Shem Tov, Hosafot 11, Torah Ohr, Noach 8c-9a, Likkutei Sichot, vol. 5, pp. 281-283.