Image: A non-poisonous California King Snake, black with yellow stripes. They eat small rodents. (pixabay)

[One] should not stand up to pray unless he is in a serious frame of mind. The early pious ones used to meditate for one hour and only then pray, in order to properly direct their hearts towards the God. [While one is reciting Shemoneh Esrei*,] even if the king greets him, he should not respond to him. And even if a snake wraps around his heel, he should not interrupt. – Mishnah Berakhot 5:1

I remember reading this mishnah for the first time. The line about the snake made quite an impression, so much so that I tend to remember it as “the snake mishnah.”

What sorts of things distract you most during prayer?

What do you do when you feel distracted?

Are some distractions holy distractions?

*Shemoneh Esrei is the Amidah, the serious part of the service we recite with most of the congregation standing.