Attentiveness or Mindfulness?
“Attentiveness “and “Mindfulness” are very different practices but are often not recognized as such.
Being “attentive” is being aware of what one is doing. If we are cleaning our cupboards and return to clean one we have already cleaned, obviously, we did not clean it attentively. Some would call such a lack of attentiveness not being “mindful.”
If a thief breaks into a home with a crowbar and sets it down to go about his work, and upon departing cannot remember where he set it down, it could be said of him that he was not attentive. Some would say he too was not “mindful.”
While attentiveness and mindfulness can be used synonymously, it is mindfulness that has through usage been connected with a spiritual quality. In practice, however, the corporate education of employees is termed “mindfulness,” signaling a misuse of the term where “attentiveness” would be more appropriate. Nothing spiritual is taught on the corporate level where the goal is to make employees more productive.
Mindfulness is a practice whose aim it is to reveal a state of mind. It is only spiritual as far as the context of its employment. For most of us on a spiritual path, the context of mindfulness practice is one that includes moral and ethical discipline as a foundation for inner revelation through meditation, breath mastery, ritual, and so forth, practices which may include a vegetarian diet, renunciation, giving, loving kindness, and compassion.
When throughout our day we are mindful, and we know we are mindful because our actions reflect mindfulness, we are rightly pleased with ourselves because we know we are supporting our spiritual practice and our aspirations. When the opposite is true, we are displeased and annoyed with ourselves and know that our scatteredness will influence our meditation, as well.
The motivation of our mindfulness practice is the key factor determining the benefits of our efforts, be they spiritual or conventional. While mindfulness with a spiritual bent will be most desirable for many of us, attentiveness will help us get on in the world. Either way we benefit, so it is our choice which of these practices we use.
The only disclaimer to the above would be recognizing fulfilling spiritual aspirations demands a greater commitment.