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The word comes from Greek omphalos (navel) + skepsis (act of looking, examination). Similar words are "omphaloskeptic" (one who engages in the practice) and "omphaloskeptical" (related to contemplation of one's navel).
Actual use of the practice as an aid to contemplation of basic principles of the cosmos and human nature is found in Indian yoga and sometimes in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Some consider the navel to be "a powerful chakra of the body".
However, phrases such as "contemplating one's navel" or "navel-gazing" are frequently used, usually in jocular fashion, to refer to self-absorbed pursuits. This criticism is often leveled at professions interested in themselves: movies about Hollywood, for example, or television shows about television writers.