Certain human beings are permeated by an intelligence of love that moves through them always. We are irresistibly drawn to these peaceful, life-affirming beings, for they touch us in ways our mind cannot begin to fathom. With them we enter fully into our own hearts and taste freedom. The first time I felt this love was in a central London bookshop across the street from my yoga studio. I was browsing through the spiritual section and a book fell out of a shelf into my hand with a photograph of Ramana Maharshi on the front cover. As I gazed at the picture, I noticed the luminosity in his eyes and a sense of peace swept through my body. The photo sits on my shrine to this day, for as soon as I see his face I sense his unconditional love, compassion and acceptance for all of humanity… (click here to read more at Lightworker’s World)
From a young age, boys are conditioned to react to situations in a specifically masculine way. Not unlike the kind of conditioning one undergoes on the football field, young men are trained to respond to perceived threats with defensiveness, aggression and cold detachment. When John Patrick Sullivan was a junior in high school, he was recruited by the famed former linebacker of the Chicago Bears, Dick Butkus, to play for the University of Illinois. It wasn’t long before he was playing professional football in the NFL for the New York Jets.
Raised by a traditional Irish Catholic family on the east coast, John Patrick was the archetypal male. He inherited the reactionary masculine qualities of his father, and believed that the only way he could be loved and accepted by others was by his exceptional ability to perform on the football field. With his NFL career now decades in the past, John Patrick Sullivan has channeled his passion and cunning on the football field into his spiritual practice of inquiry. These days he plays “divine sports”, and his focus has shifted to liberation, openness and the love of truth. He has traded in his shoulder pads for a yoga mat and spends his time on what he calls “the field of life.”
Rather than settling for the temporary reward of scoring in the end zone, he embraces the No End Zone – a place that perpetually encourages us to show up with an open heart in the present moment, drop our false identities and return to the truth of who we are.
It wasn’t easy for him to resolve the rigid lessons of manhood he learned from football and his upbringing. Yet he sees the wisdom in every step of the warrior’s path, and believes that these lessons can be applied to living a more open life. “All of the energy that I put into sports I now do with my spiritual life. The same courage it takes to hit the field, practice, and do all the work now helps me with the practice of inquiry. When you practice this, you show up in the field of life. The main difference is that then it was all about competition. With spirituality it’s more of an inner journey, an inner playing field.”
After leaving the NFL, John Patrick was coasting on the glory of his former career and descending into a life befitting of the vice infused “tough guy football player” he thought he was supposed to be. He was in a downward spiral. At 29 he discovered yoga, and had his first Satori moment, or “full embodied awakening experience in the present moment.” He is now in his mid-fifties and has been practicing yoga for over twenty years. His main spiritual practice is a ten thousand year old yogic tradition called Self-Inquiry. He has been part of the Ridhwan Mystery School, and has been practicing the Diamond Approach for 13 years, which is now his primary path. He is interested in direct knowing, or in other words, developing a relationship with your own indwelling Presence.
John now offers his wisdom in No End Zone, and seeks to help others unlearn the conditioned self, and trust that what is unfolding in the moment is what we need for our current direct involvement with life.
Copyright © No End Zone 2013
- Our main practice is Self-Inquiry, the path that has been used for thousands of years for liberation and ultimately Self-Realization.
- The focus of this practice is on understanding and opening up to the divine within ourselves and discovering our True Nature.
- Adhering to a set time develops a strong container for relating. (Usually 15-20 minutes with 5-10 minutes sharing.)
- We are shifting focus away from personality towards an expanded sense of self. Meanwhile, honor what comes up.
- Trust creates openness, understanding and beautiful relationships.
- We promise to support our process and the unfolding True Nature of our partner.
- We commit to maintaining an open-minded curiosity.
- We take full responsibility for all of our thoughts, words and deeds.
- We never blame our partner for how we feel, for our feelings are our responsibility.
- We inquire into and explore the messages our feelings have for us.
- The words we use are vibrations that have enormous impact, and so we need to choose our words carefully.
- Our thoughts, our conversations and our actions inform and create the world we live into. Let’s be conscious creators.
- We all already have what we need within ourselves and our partners can help us remember what we may have forgotten.
- Practice listening to your partner with no agenda.
- Develop an attitude of neutral loving kindness.
- Do not interrupt another’s monologue.
- Ask questions, but do not interpret.
- Trust the process.
- NEVER physically act out on your self or your partner. No violence. Physical abuse ends relationships.
- NEVER verbally assault your partner. If you do, apologize immediately. Verbal abuse ends relationships.
- Stay clean and clear with all of your agreements, especially regarding sexuality and finances.
- Clean up all addictive or codependent behaviors with a therapist, mentor or 12 step program.
- When triggered let your partner know that you would like to find time to inquire to explore your feelings and insights later when you feel calm.
- Keep impeccable agreements with your partner.
- Show up on time. This shows that you respect your partner.
- Process difficult material with a therapist.
- Practice love, kindness and support with your partner.
- Set times aside for special dinners, walks and dates.
- Remember that your Inner Guidance and True Nature ultimately will reveal great wisdom, truth and love.
- Honor your partner and see the Light in them.
- Trust your inner guidance, it will lead you Home.
Copyright © Ayn Cates Sullivan and John Patrick Sullivan 2013
Every living being longs always to be happy, untainted by sorrow; and everyone has the greatest love for himself, which is solely due to the fact that happiness is his real nature. Hence, in order to realize that inherent and untainted happiness, which indeed he daily experiences when the mind is subdued in deep sleep, it is essential that he should know himself. For obtaining such knowledge the inquiry ‘Who am I?’ in quest of the Self is the best means.” -The Collected Works of Sri Ramana Maharshi
The great Indian sage Ramana Maharishi described Self-Inquiry as the main and most direct path to awakening, as do Nisargadatta Maharaj, Eckhart Tolle, Adyashanti, A.H. Almaas, Gangagi, Byron Katie and many enlightened teachers. Ramana encouraged his student to use inquiry to investigate their own true nature, until it is realized that there is no such thing as the self. It is at this point that we begin to have glimpses of who we truly are. We slow the mind through breathing, walking in nature and meditation, and begin asking who is the “I” that we refer to so casually. Do we really know who we are? We turn our attention back to ourselves and focus on our inner awareness. Who is it that is seeing through our eyes, feeling with our hands, beating our hearts, breathing our breaths. Over time we begin to tap into what is boundless, formless and changeless that exists within us. We realize that we are more than a person, we are a presence and that this is the true nature of all beings. We begin to understand that we are not our stories of pain and suffering, or even the tales of happiness and enlightenment, we are much more that the stories that we tell. Most of us are entangled cases of misidentification. We are not the small, fragile selves who we take ourselves to be. In truth we are boundless awareness, brilliancy, compassion and love.
When we are unhappy we have become identified with something that is not real. If we are brave enough to stay with and examine the strong feelings that emerge, in most cases an inner luminous wisdom arises from within and reveals our next level of truth. We begin to realize the intelligence of our true nature, and over time we can develop the sensitivity and attunement that we have sought in our friends and lovers. Doing this work does not make you immune to feeling, actually we begin to feel more. Yet we learn to discern what is arising. As we come to know our true Self, we are able to make the Infinite Light our main station. By that I mean that we realize beyond question of a doubt that we are eternal.
Copyright © Ayn Cates Sullivan 2013
NO END ZONE- Soulful living in the arena of divine sports
by John Patrick Sullivan
I want to share what No End Zone is all about and why we might want we to suit up and show up for the daily practice of inquiry in our lives. Let me first offer you a brief definition of inquiry. Inquiry is a spiritual path to liberation in which our focus is turned towards the love of the truth. In our practice we explore the reality of who and where we are at in any given moment.
Life is like a big game, where everyone is a winner and it is fun to play. To have the energy to play requires being curious, open and interested in the ‘practice’ of life instead of the ‘doing’ of life. When there is no competition to outdo our partner in the house, business or courtroom, we can relax into the No End Zone. It is fun and light. Life takes on a mysterious quality that teaches us that our value is found in our beingness.
We get so focused on winning the game of life that we forget about the simple things that make this life amazing and filled with opportunities to ground into our essential self. We get so caught up with the day-to-day stress of survival mode that we forget our own true nature. It’s so much more simple when we can surrender into our own true nature and move with grace and ease through the world.
Our true nature has natural clarity. There is nothing in us that is broken and there nothing to fix. The saying, “no pain no gain” is out of date. The new millennium calls for the unity of all dualities. It is time to relax into the truth of who we are.
For me the value in sports is that it can be a positive channel for energy. We learn the disciple that we need that can eventually be used for our inner journey. No End Zone is important work because it shifts our focus from external drives to internal peace. The work is about compassion, trust and stepping into the truth.
No End Zone helps us discover more freedom and lightness of being in our lives and relationships because we don’t have to accomplish any goals. We replace goals with spiritual aims, which takes the pressure off. We might aim to go to our meditation seat every morning, but we don’t beat ourselves self up if we don’t get to that seat. It about showing up with an open heart and asking for presence to guide us in our lives and then trust what is unfolding in the moment is what we need for our current direct involvement with life. With No End Zone life is simplified.
Football taught me lessons that help me on the spiritual journey, especially mindfulness and the ability to concentrate on and off the field. It gave me the ability to see the entire field before the snap of the ball so that I simply sensed where the ball was going. Sports take us beyond the mind. My dedication to the game was complete. I put all of my energy into a sport that I loved and respected. Now I get to play the game of divine sports the way I used to play football but with out the touchdown and tackles. It is a new way of being fully embodied and it involves suiting up and showing up on the cushion or in the car, walking my dogs or being intimate with my wife. Life becomes a big practice that brings us closer to the realization that we can’t lose what we don’t have.
Now I know for lots of us this is going to sound a little far out, but we have been identifying with winning and the roles we play for a long time. Some of us have taken all of this way too seriously. That is the false sense of self, the big toxic lie of who we have taken ourselves to be. If we are suffering we have lost track of who we are. Call it the false self or the ego, basically the one who suffers is not real. It is a learned conditioned self. We come into this world pure and whole and then we start getting labeled as a boy or girl, as bad and good, whatever the projection of the other false self is identifying with.
With No End Zone we learn to drop these false identities and return to the truth of who we are behind the stories. We are allowed to take a deep breath and return to peace.
Copyright © John Patrick Sullivan 2013
Contact John Patrick Sullivan for private sessions or to learn more about No End Zone: firstname.lastname@example.org
by Ayn Cates Sullivan
Sri Ramana Maharishi recommended self-inquiry as the most direct way to Self-Awareness and liberation. There is also another way, which is not as well known, but it is referred to by a few mystics usually as unitive mysticism. The idea is that ultimate reality can be experienced through subjective experience. In other words, it is possible for two people to get liberated together.
Inspired by two modern day masters, AH Almaas and Cynthia Bourgeault, my husband and I began diving into the idea of awakening together a few years ago. It does mean awakening out of the patterns that tend to cause people to bicker, but it invites us to explore conscious love. This can really take a couple without touching into states of indescribable ecstatic union. This sort of unity is along the lines of what mystics refer to as the crucible of love. Once we work through our personality issues what is left is a lot of cosmic space and that is where the couple inquiry gets to be really interesting. What we practice is two fragrances sharing space, or even two waves becoming one wave. Might as well give it a whirl.
Generally when we introduce couple inquiry we simply show people how to be with another so that there can be a relaxation, a deep breath, a space made for both people. We invite the idea that we can simply be together without doing or thinking. Although our mind might want to present evidence to the contrary, there is actually nothing to fix and nothing to achieve. When we drop our stories we find that there is something delightful that resides in the human heart and soul. The basic idea of inquiry looks something like this:
A couple turns and faces one another either on chairs or pillows, which ever is more comfortable. Keeping a timer handy, we bow to the mystery within each other, and then set a timer for 10-15 minutes (actually we often do half an hour to an hour each, but that is advanced). One person holds silence with a neutral, loving and open attitude, the second person has that time to share what is going on for them. It can be anything from how they are tired of doing dishes, to a cosmic light experience, or simply the current experience of being in a body. After the set time, there can be five minutes to simply ask a few clarifying questions, then the couple switches roles. There is no fixing, guiding, leading or directing. What we find is that we begin to become increasingly aware that there is a subtle intelligence that leads when we simply surrender into the moment.
We can also select specific questions to inquire into such as: “Tell me where you are in your Realization,” or “What makes you feel really alive,” or “How do you experience yourself right now,” or “Have you longed for intimacy”? Sometimes people want to wallow around in feeling like a blob or victim, and we just make space for that too, because it tends to open into something much more interesting. The main idea is to simply stay curious…
The practice is simple, and yet the shift in perception is dramatic. The focus becomes rather fun and exciting because we are learning what it is like to awaken in life together.
Suddenly we realize that we had been swopping out partners simply because we hadn’t yet discovered how to inquire into the mystery of the other. Once we get curious about our inner worlds and how we can space cruise through dimensions together, then all of a sudden relationship becomes really exciting. You tend to want to be with your special other who can cruise with you, merge with you, disappear with you, and come back into this reality with you parting as separate waves. Plus it makes all of life more interesting, even doing dishes and taking the kids to school, because you turn around and look at them… and wow! There is a galaxy forming right there in front of your eyes! A crystal light body with total intelligence struggling with homework that only partly fits with its paradigm. And we can all laugh about it, make a meal and enjoy what it is to share a meal with people who like different food yet share the same table.
This practice sounds romantic yet it requires a great deal of courage, for when we truly experience unity our sense of self melts and we temporarily lose our sense of autonomy. Having a meditation and yoga practice is very beneficial, so that you know that you can come back to yourself. We can practice merging as a wave, folding in on one another, and then folding back out to normal functional autonomy. The main idea is to embrace the concept that two people can come together with the purpose of knowing greater levels of love, perhaps beyond our wildest imagination!
Copyright © Ayn Cates Sullivan 2013