“How was your break?”

Most of us will be asked this questions dozens of times today.

And most of us will choose the repetitive elevator speech: “It was fun. I went to xxxxxx.” “It was boring. I didn’t do much.” “I worked the entire time.” The elevator speech is handy for dealing with cognitive overload–the brain produces the same response over and over to avoid unnecessary energy expenditure.

But a few people will stop and consider their responses each time. Each time they will seek to connect to the person asking the question. Each time they will seek to be alert, for these people know that the best way to use the brain’s energy is to connect with others.

As the poet David Whyte wrote in a poem, “Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.”

Whyte’s entire poem, “Everything is Waiting for you” is a wonderful way to start the spring semester:

“Your great mistake — Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
our your solo voice
You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you courage.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity. Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.
Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything, everything, everything is waiting for you.”

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