You probably have heard of a story of how a pupil came to the Zen master to learn from his wisdom, but the master said that it’s impossible for him to learn because he’s full (of himself).
That’s a very common problem. Many cannot learn anything truly new because they are full of themselves. They are full of ego, full of beliefs and self-talk. This prevents them from taking in anything new.
Those who start following some new teacher and say “I follow him because his teachings agree with all I believe” cannot truly spiritually grow, because they choose the specific direction of their development whilst remaining blind to the rest of the reality.
It’s only when one chooses to drop the beliefs that blind or limit the view, and learns to create a void within that anything new can reach them. Otherwise, they would simply stick to what resonates with their beliefs, thus maintaining their partial blindness.
In order to create a void, one must look at things without any judgement. This allows one to see things as they are. This means that when you look at something, be that background in which the thing can express its nature. Don’t judge the thing, don’t engage in self-talk and don’t allow your beliefs about the thing tell you what the thing is. Suspend all your judgement, leave the void within, for the thing to disclose its true nature to you.
Rudolf Steiner said that if God created everything with his Word, then every thing has a name – an idea about it. That name we can indeed know, but only when we stop naming/labeling the thing as that only veils the true nature of the object of observation with our opinions and beliefs about it. Simply allow the object to tell you what it is, and you will know its name.
What’s more, not only will you be able to see things as they are, you may even receive a spiritual gift of becoming the thing of your observation for a moment or two. This indeed is possible, and this has happened to me on quite a few occasions, the last one being when I spent time in one of the Buddhist monasteries which I visited just before my return to my home country.
So this experience would allow you not only to witness the real nature of a thing (either animate or inanimate) but to actually experience what it’s like to be it; and it’s hard to think of anything that could expand your understanding of the world so significantly!
Thus, the importance of creating a void within. People who are full of themselves look so small in the eyes of those who see. Our society wants us to be full of ourselves; but this is what makes us look so little, and be so blind. We must empty ourselves to let the reality in rather than judging everything from the fort of an imperfect ego.
This will allow us to become true mirrors of what is; and this will allow us to experience things the way that they are. Identifying with reality is considered enlightenment in some spiritual traditions; I don’t consider it the last step on the path, but it’s a mighty step indeed.