“When you’re in the moment, just dance. This isn’t the time to think about the choreography or to worry about whether you’re doing it right. You can think about those later. But when it’s time to dance, forget everything else, and just do it. Ignore everything else, and just be in the moment.”
The teacher who had come from out of town to lead a few workshops several years ago was talking about tap dancing, but as she spoke, what I was hearing wasn’t advice on how to dance. What I heard was advice on how to pray.
I had been Muslim for a while at that point, and had been praying regularly for even longer (long story). At the time that this dance teacher was in town, I’d been finding myself often overthinking things while in prayer: was I pronouncing the words properly? Did I even have the right words? Which surah should I recite next? Was this the third rakat, or the fourth? Were my hands/feet/elbows all in the right places? I knew that these thoughts were getting in the way of me actually focusing on the prayer, but I wasn’t sure what to do about it.
I’m not going to pretend that my prayers were all magically better after that one pep talk – far from it; I still often struggle with being fully present – but the teacher’s words gave me a metaphor to use to help me work past all the overanalysis. There is a time to learn more or to think about whether I’m doing things right, but this is not that time. Right now: just dance. Just pray. [Read more...]