All these terms can pertain to both thought and the act of witnessing with one’s eyes. The metaphors between the two processes are endless. It’s no accident that the optic nerve is the most direct pathway to the brain. It’s also no accident that the word “Vipassana” is translated into both “Insight” and “Mindfulness” Meditation.
The word “Recognition” is often a potent reminder of how the root words provide keys to origins of words and their concepts. In today’s world, to ‘recognize’ something means to see something and know what it is, with the emphasis being on the seeing part. More poignantly, to recognize something means to re-think it or re-“cognize” it. To see it something, know what it is, and reflect on what you know about it. In so doing we reprocess and reinforce the ideas about what we know about it in our minds. Whether what we are reinforcing is true or not, is a different story.
As a child and adolescent I remember staring at myself in the mirror, focusing at looking into my own eyes and repeating the sentence “I am a human being” and dwelling on the idea of my own existence. I’m not sure how I came up with that, but the net effect was to take me out of the whirlwind of thought and experiences surrounding my life at the moment and have a moment or two of rather deep, self-awareness. I felt like the exercise verified and connected me to every other human being. It allowed me to, however briefly, see myself as thought I were looking at a different person other than myself, perhaps providing a glimpse into what others were seeing when they looked at me.
I find that when my mind wanders during Vipassana meditation and I find tensions arising the act of putting my attention on what I’m seeing behind my closed yelids helps awaken my mind to the reality of the moment – as opposed to whatever I had been thinking about when I noticed my attention was not on sensation. This may be a slight deviation from the technique of focusing solely on body sensations, but I find it is instantaneously grounding.
Similarly, focusing on other sensations beyond feeling the surface of the skin: Smell, taste, hearing could likewise may prove helpful in bringing one back to center and closer to the objective of feeling sensations on the surface of the body objectively. The only downside is it seems to pull me out of what seem like deeper states of meditation, which may in fact be just rolling in thought and not meditation at all.