There But Not Really There
The Degel Machaneh Ephraim taught that a person must have two abilities if he wants to be able to serve Hashem in absolute truth. First, a person must have the ability to visualize that he is alone in the world with only his Creator. Second, he must be able to join himself to all of Hashem's creations, no matter how big or small, and to all the neshamos of His people.
Back in the days when I was first learning how to daven from a siddur, I often wondered if it would be preferable for me to daven alone so I could better focus on the purpose of what I was doing and not to be distracted by others. Understanding that the halacha clearly says that a person must daven with a minyan, I did not attempt to stubbornly supplant my personal inclinations for Hashem's expressed command. It would take some mind-bending and highly-creative pilpul to be able to misinterpret the Gemara's statement [Yerushalmi - Berachos 5:1], "When one davens at home, it is as if he is surrounded with walls of iron."
While I wrote about a successful three-part strategy that I employed for the Rosh Hashana davening two years ago, it hasn't been until very recently that I started following this strategy on a regular basis. I now attempt to keep the Degel's teaching in mind and imagine that I am alone with the Ribbono shel Olam when I am davening in shul; rarely looking up from the letters printed in the siddur and continually reminding myself that He is listening and knows the intention of my heart.
I have also tried to keep in mind Reb Nosson of Breslov's teaching from Likutey Halachos that a person can transcend place and time by attaching himself to Hashem since He is above place and time. Bringing this idea down into practical application, whether I am on public transportation saying Tehilllim, saying Birkas Hamazon at a restaurant, or davening in a crowded shul, I imagine that I am all alone in another location where I would find it easiest serve Hashem at that very moment.
Following the Degel's advice to be there but not really there at certain times has helped me immensely. The locations I imagine routinely change, and my connection to the Ribbono shel Olam slowly seems to be growing stronger.
מצוה גוררת מצוה וקדושה גוררת קדושה