My name is Albert Gonzales, and my path starts here in Chicago. Born here in Chicago, Illinois. However, as opposed to most people, my family reverse migrated when I was four years old, so I went to Mexico with my family. two siblings, two adult siblings. Their older me, ten and twelve years older than me and two females. It’s important in the story because when we moved to Mexico, as I continue to grow, I in Mexico, I realized that some things were different than most people. I was different. I, although I didn’t understand what was different, I realized that I didn’t quite fit in the the culture very well. Not only did I was obviously because of the Latin environment, there is very Orthodox way of following Christianity or Catholicism, and in which we are somewhat of the mentality didn’t make me feel comfortable. From a perspective of not only understanding that we came from sin. We lived in sin and we were going to die in sin until someone was going to redeem us from our sins. On top of the fact that I discovered that I was gay, so I just didn’t fit in the whole culture very well. Obviously, in a very mostly masculine driven, macho environment, I was being bullied as well. So in the culture itself, I just didn’t fit very, very well. I needed to escape. And from an early age, I did go to Catholicism as a refuge for my problems. But then I encountered more problems because I was not quite accepted for being myself. So I went through a quest in finding. My problem and I didn’t understand who I was, but yet I was finding my problems, and that is where my awareness became a little bit more acute. I was not looking for a specific religion. I was not looking for a specific acceptance. I was not looking for a specific label. I think I just went on a quest to finding myself. And for a long time, I, of course, in an environment where everything is one, the absence of one is the other and there’s no other. Out so the absence of light is darkness. Therefore, from a spiritual perspective, I went through a totally different avenue, an avenue that gave me a lot more. Appreciation for the Earth, our planet, and they understood that there was an interconnectivity that was more there was deeper than myself that was bigger than myself, that was around everything that was not bound to a culture that was not bound to a specific ethnic background. But it didn’t quite understand that very much. I just knew I was suffocating and I didn’t know how to get out. So from an early age, I realized that I was just not going to make it in this environment and I needed to escape. So from an early age, my parents had told me that if I needed to escape, I needed to give them a college diploma. So at the age of 15, I gave them our first college diploma in physics and mathematics, and that was my out. I came to Chicago, came back and then I confronted a bigger problem because I couldn’t speak the English language, and that was a big barrier again. And I started from scratch, and another part of my life was kind of understanding who I was. But this time I was alone. I didn’t have the pressure of parents. I didn’t have the pressure of religion. I didn’t have a pressure of society. I was on a quest to finding who I was, and it was a very interesting. And trajectory in my life. I come from suffering all these things, I make them sound probably easy or simple. But there’s a lot of tears and a lot of pain and a lot of suffering behind these words. There were times that I couldn’t understand a lot of the things that were on the board, although that was my dream was to be in college here in Chicago and study computer information systems once I was here and it was accepted as hard as it was. I couldn’t speak the language and I had to confront my weaknesses and I had to confront my differences. But something important happened here that I was no longer focusing on the problems that society had put on my shoulders. I now had my own problems to confront. And it was a different perspective. I was on my own. I was finding my obstacles, and I was now finding that I was no longer made from sin. I was creating my own sense is, for that matter, I was creating my own heavens. Now, going back to the story, the important thing of my siblings was that because my sisters, specifically my older sister Carmen, was twelve, is twelve years older than I am. She had been experimenting with meditation and yoga, and from an early age when I was six years old, she took me along to her meditation sessions and I had the blessing that in the midst of darkness, I had found one spark of light and that was meditation practice. And throughout my whole roller coaster and religion, throughout all my lights and darks, throughout my greens and yellows, I always knew how to sit and find myself because when I didn’t know who myself was, I knew what my heart felt like. I had the chance of knowing what my blood felt like, running through my body and in types of darkness. I needed to go back to that. And if anything, that was my constant. That was my North Star. That was my hope to know that there was something bigger out there. I didn’t know that yet what it was. So obviously, my biggest struggle, my biggest challenge there was my professional environment, my career, because I needed to prove to everyone that I could be successful because I didn’t know what success was. I was regurgitating what everyone else’s version of success was, so I put my head down and I continued becoming a professional. Jumping through the obstacles that were language, culture. Yeah, financial, spiritual at that point was not. An issue because it was beyond my peripheral vision, but yet that spark of going back to the self was the constant between my sister’s practice that she always kept up. I always learned from her and my brother in law how to continue practicing because I realized from a different perspective that religion was not just about going to a temple for 45 minutes to an hour and walking away. It wasn’t about. Feeling oppressed or feeling dirty or feeling wrong or trying to make things better, I realized that. There was a lifestyle out there that she lived, that they lived, and they wanted to understand, although it wasn’t in my peripheral vision, there was an understanding that there is something more out there and. There was a very interesting part of my life where professionally I grew very fast, very strong and thankfully I. Became everything that everyone, including myself at that point, wanted to be. I had the title, I had the six figures, I had the convertible. I had the car by the lake. And 9:11 happened, and that was a moment of awakening for me. I realized that one of the clients that we worked with was in the tower and he had left behind some family and that was very deep for me to understand not only. Come to terms as there’s so much hate in the world. But knowing that I was doing nothing about it was even more painful. So I decided to leave that comfortable lifestyle, and I left the six figures and I left the big titles and I left all those things that I thought were going to make me happy because I was very hollow and then my professional career, I unfortunately confronted my own personal antichrist, someone that realized that. I was having difficulties dealing with my homosexuality and. Just feeling insecure about things, and because this person was high manager and felt comfortable because his manager was another bully. It was very difficult for me to. Have any point of self-respect or a voice to defend myself or. A reason to. And it was kind of interesting because this was the beginning of everything. When I had nothing. When I couldn’t even stand for myself and fight for myself or have a voice to answer back or say stop because it hurts. Couldn’t, didn’t know how to. And it was not until I found someone that appreciated me, which was a client. She always had great words to say about my work and about my dedication and. one day she asked if I had gotten some kudos that she had sent and because I. Did not realize that there was a big problem. So she realized what the situation was and spoke to my manager at that point about the fact that it wasn’t very comfortable the way I was being. Disrespected, so to speak, but at that point. There was not much protection for us, so even going to H.R. was just more like, it’s just his personality. Don’t take it personal, it’s just the way he is. Meanwhile, I had to deal with the daily abuse until this happened, and I realized that there was a difference. In myself, when someone sees the light within you, and that was a moment of awakening for me because someone saw the light within me, this person, Janet was her name. We became friends, and she taught me how to stand up for myself. And it’s kind of funny because when people ask me about Buddhism and how I found Buddhism, I often say that I didn’t find Buddhism. Buddhism found me at a lesbian bar. It was. And I became very good friends. She understood where I was coming from. She understood how broken I was because she was also broken at once. However, Janette was very Catholic and we were sitting at a lesbian bar having a drink and she said to me, You know, Albert, the way you live your life, the way you lead. The way you just behave, you should think about Buddhism. And in my complete ignorance. I laughed at her and I said, Janette, are you blind? I’m not Asian. I say that with embarrassment at the same time with pride. Didn’t realize how lost I was at that point, I realized that. Not only was I ignorant, but how much I had suffered, because I thought that your ethnic background was completely directionally proportionate to your spiritual lineage. In my ignorance, not to defend myself because I take pride in the fact that have come a long way. And I take pride that out of all of that, all of this has become reality. But. Even today, when I find. The time to visit Mexico to go back. There isn’t a mask. There isn’t a Buddhist temple. There isn’t anything else but either. Everything under the umbrella of Catholicism, Christianity or the lack thereof. But there’s not much of a spiritual. Selection. And it was then that. The seed was dropped in my peripheral vision of spirituality. I understood what Buddhism was from a concept, not from a lifestyle. It was not until ten years later. Believe it or not, ten years later that a couple of friends, I was helping some of my friends move and he had some trucks rented for 10:00 in the morning, but there was some scheduling conflict and we couldn’t pick up the truck at that time. So guys, they to start drinking. Let’s just have fun. And it was just too early for me, so I decided to take a walk, not knowing that just two blocks away was the Buddhist Temple of Chicago. No idea what that meant, but it was a Buddhist temple and that seat that was dropped many years ago. I even shake thinking about it. It was a Sunday afternoon and. I excuse me, I’m sorry about that. Sunday afternoon and all morning, really. And I was walking. These stores were. Beautiful, incredibly elaborate. There were these wooden floors, sorry, wooden doors with these designs. Magnificent doors, heavy bag. That when you open, did you knew there was a purpose behind it? And. Walking in to the temple. That whole moment was so serendipitous. As they walked in, everyone was chanting and they were starting the golden chain. I had never heard the golden chain. I had never heard of. Not to be disrespectful, but I had never really listened. My soul never really listened. two words being chanted. But this time. My soul. Translated what was being transmitted in those words that allowed my soul to dance. It gave me the responsibility that I was looking for myself. It made me understand that I was responsible for me. The concept of having control over my destiny. The understanding that. I can love myself. I can embrace myself without feeling dirty. Without feeling wrong or broken, without feeling gay. Without feeling dark. Without feeling short. But most importantly, I realize that much like before, when I was regurgitating what success was, I was also throughout my life, my spiritual life, regurgitating what other people’s religion was, but not my own. Was interesting because. one of the side practices that the temple was offering was meditation. And. That was my anchor in many ways in my life when I was lost in middle of the darkness, when I was in the mud like the lotus flower. That was my go to. And Richard. Took me in and. Understood where I was coming from from a meditative perspective because I had already gone through multiple avenues of meditation. It was my. It was my California. It was my escape from the noise from everywhere, and it was coming into the me and Richard understood the richness that I found in there in that nirvana. And he started teaching me how to lead. Little by little. Not knowing that. He would pass a couple of years later and. I would unfortunately and fortunately, take a spot. When it comes to my practice, as far as Buddhism is concerned, it’s very interesting because one of the first times that I meditated with Richard. He shared one of Buddha’s quotes where it mentions that if you’re looking for someone in your path and you find an encounter, the Buddha to kill him. These are words from the Buddha himself. And that was the realization for the first time on that floor. In that darkness. That the biggest problem that I had was that I was always trying to fulfill someone else’s shoes or expectations or goals. And they had to find myself. Not as a Buddhist, not as a Catholic, and that is a man or a homosexual, for that matter. I find myself. And. Why Buddhism was so important to me was. Because Buddha doesn’t tell you what to do or how to live or what to live. It allows you to live and allows you to breathe. It allows you to become. That’s why I’m happy. That’s why I’m here, and that’s why for ten years, I’ve been sitting on the floor happily with people and with out to teach people how to find light within themselves, because sometimes it’s hard to find that. It’s hard to reach within that darkness and all that. Mud. And find a way to grow. And find a way to respect yourself and to love yourself. And most importantly. To find a way to float. To be.
Wow. That takes me way back when. I had to do the shift in mentalities from. Being so to speak. Catholic agnostic. Obviously, I cannot say that I will never say that I don’t have the Catholic principles because they were there, they taught me what the right and the wrongs were. They taught me how to find my gauge in life in many ways, which is why I respect a lot of Catholicism. Catholic scriptures and a lot of the rituals and everything that is followed in Catholicism were my my pillars in life to understand and for that matter. Appreciate. Buddhism, but it was. A big shift in mentality. When I discovered Buddhism, it wasn’t from a perspective of finding the reverend. As being the leader, which was a big shocker for me because I had never seen that yet always felt uncomfortable about it. And it wasn’t about the label Buddhist temple, because to me, that was irrelevant. And it wasn’t about. What most people consider Buddhism to be the cool thing, the cool label to have. It was a very difficult transition. I had always been taught to look at myself. From a very disrespectful perspective, a dirty perspective. Very. Self-destructive perspective. And unfortunately, I felt that. From a Catholic perspective. It was acceptable. For me to feel that bad from the top to the bottom. Because I deserved it. Because I was dirty and I was born into sin and being gay, I could have gone to hell and no one really cared because that was basically the end of my life. When? That moment when I walked in and I heard the. Golden Chain, it was a very freeing moment because I no longer felt. That anchor around my head and I wanted to understand why I wanted to understand what this Buddhism truly was. So I dove. Into understanding and reading about the Buddha. Understanding his. Practice of meditation. His practice of finding Buddhism and every single day things that only in the pretty things, much like I was taught before. To find religion only one hour, which is a term that the mass would last. And then after that, who cares because there’s always someone that’s going to redeem you from all your sins. So really didn’t matter. And. Going to an. Group of people where you were awake, awake and aware. Every single moment of your life. Beautiful concept sounds great, but actually walking it, knowing that you’re special and that you should respect yourself, even though everyone out there is telling you that you shouldn’t, because that’s what I was taught. And when I was taught murder, murder is a way of describing patients, a way of describing the appreciation of something that’s very difficult to embrace. And that’s when I realized that that was what life was about. Because. one of the biggest things in religion that I’ve been taught was to change things. I always ask things to be changed. And that’s not what Buddhism was about. It was more of allowing things to be the way they were. When I started reading how Buddha said under the tree for 40 days. And a lot of the experiences that he was having were a lot of the experiences that I was having. The suffering. The compassion, the awareness. The pain. All that. That’s when I felt that I needed to understand a little bit more about Buddhism. And. Understanding the practice, such as not only meditation, meditation was just part of it, but there were other things that were so important that I’ve never heard of being part of of a religion such as patients. Patience, compassion, kindness. What does this mean? How can I find compassion when I’m broken inside? How can I find love when there’s nothing but the dirt in here? That’s all I knew. How could I find something positive in the middle of darkness? When? I started not only again finding meditation, but reading a lot of. The Eightfold Path. Understanding that there’s levels, you know, even understanding that regression is part of evolution. What a concept I had been fighting all my life, myself against myself because I was taught how to fight myself, but how was going, how was I supposed to fight myself? How was I going to take all that dirt and all that mud and all that away from me? I didn’t know how to. And the more I read Pure Land Buddhism, the more I realized that it was OK to be. Broken. Because there is no such thing as being broken. It taught me how to be compassionate with myself by understanding. That we’re all here in our paths and we’re all walking. And in that path, there might be multiple obstacles. And as opposed to what I’ve been taught before, as far as fighting them or jumping them or firing them. Wasn’t like that anymore. He was welcoming Adobe. It was taking that problem and seeing it as a multidimensional object, knowing that with my perspective, I can see all different angles to that problem because at the end of the day, this problem is going to make me stronger, better. The perspective of Buddhism allowing me to welcome problems, a welcome nature as it is.
Fruit of practice
I remember that. one of the things about the temple that. I appreciated was that. Not only were they allowing me to grow from a meditative perspective because of all the. Learning that I had endured from meditation, from meditation perspective, but I started kind of learning a different way of thinking where the Dharma was very important for me from a perspective that it allowed me to. Realize that there was nothing wrong with questioning someone’s spirituality as I was once taught. There was nothing wrong with us feeling angry. Or feeling. Upset. But I think I started learning also through the Dharma that. As opposed to what I was taught before that, we have to give in to certain emotions or have to give in to certain conditions. I realize that that’s not the case. We can control our environment. I was taught that. If you control your thoughts, you can control your words and that controls your outcome. Which was something. A principle of Buddhism that I did not quite understand before. But the biggest quest that I had now was making sure that that thought process was present every single day of my life because before I had been taught that my spiritual practice was basically an hour or so a week. And you know, if you had the time to pray in the morning or in the evening, will that be fine? But at the end of the day, it didn’t matter because you were going to be exonerated from all of that at the end of the day. So it really didn’t matter much like criminals and much like, you know, all these other people at the end of the day, we’re all going to be forgiven. So what was the point of me even trying to work harder to find my happiness? That is where the crack on my wall became apparent. Is that through religion, I had been taught for someone else to come in and fix my problems to make me happy? To lift my agony away or for that matter, to give me the happiness that I was not sure where I was going to find it. But even that was going to be resolved for me. It’s about recognizing your suffering and paying attention to the suffering that we’ve gone through. And understanding as well that all of that leads us to here. Giving that suffering. The ability to grow within us to be compassionate with one another. And that’s the beauty when you put Buddhism to practice. It starts growing. It starts rolling, the awareness starts becoming more apparent, and the awareness is no longer about the self. The consequence of the awareness becomes more and more. Right. And then you understand that it’s no longer about you, but it’s about the Sanga, it’s about everyone around you. And when you bow, you bow to yourself and about everyone around you and you start discovering the magic of the little things that we do. And because of this awareness. Buddhism allowed me to understand the miracle of breathing, of walking. Of seeing of hearing and that. Is what made me come back and made me still vibrant in this practice because it doesn’t stop. You never stop thinking. You never stop breathing. You never stop seeing and learning. It is because of those difficult things, such as one of the big challenges that I had was depression. And even that. Was something that I learned how to embrace with Buddhism because it was nothing that I was running away from anymore. It was something that needed to jump in and understand in order for me to dismantle and then love. And no one ever taught me those things, because once you learn how to respect yourself, you no longer let anyone put you down. And if you’re not going to build me up, don’t even think about knocking me down. You learn how to respect yourself. It wasn’t a month, it wasn’t two, it wasn’t a year, it wasn’t a tier. It wasn’t 1000, it’s a lot more than that. It was painful sometimes to see that those broken pieces, a lot of times you pick them up and you continue to hurt yourself because that’s all you were taught to do. Until the day. That someone or something in this case. My practice taught me how to stop. How to take those hurtful things away. And for a change. Take all of those beautiful, broken pieces and lift them up because there’s nothing to be ashamed about. There’s nothing to be. Dirty four or by. And there’s nothing to be fearful about. That was the moment when I was sitting down. Middle of meditation. And I chose to do something different. As. Embarrassing as it was, because I was always embarrassed to see myself. As. Ridiculous, that is my head seen. As insecure as I was. I took a chance to see some brightness through all those broken pieces. Something magical happened. For the first time. Well, I was sitting on that floor practicing for so many years. And yes, sometimes. Being more confused because all of these thoughts were coming in and I was not controlling it and people saying, Oh no, it’s easy to meditate because you just sit there and just for 35 minutes and you go home, it’s not about that. It’s about learning how to control all your thoughts about learning how to welcome them. It’s about learning to say, You think that’s hard? I want it harder because you know that those are the things that make you stronger. And it was that moment when I was in that floor that I thought enough enough of this. I’ve used shovels to make the hole even deeper, and I know how bad it hurts. Enough with this. And you get rid of the shovels. And you start looking for ways to get out. You know, that’s the reason why I practice so much meditation in my life because I was finding a way to fight my depression without medication. Even though people were telling me, Oh well, it’s light, you need more this, you need more that I didn’t want of those things because of the side effects. But I now knew that if I could respect myself, I could change things because now I was taught for the first time that I can change anything in my life with the practice of breathing. Because every time I sat there for those 45 minutes to an hour on the floor, against the wall, with the common thought or without reaching that point of clarity. It was a practice that was getting me closer and closer and closer to being able to embrace myself in that moment when I did, it was worth every single time and every single tier. And that was the moment of change for me when I grew up and I said enough. And I chose to change my mentality. That’s when Buddhism. Rubber hit the road and I grew I grew the hardest and the deepest. And the interesting thing is that. On a day to day basis, I’m often challenged. Traffic doesn’t get any easier. When I have a headache and feel ill and the birds are chirping at 2:00 in the morning and I have insomnia. It doesn’t get any easier when I’m running late to work and all these people are being insensitive about my life and they still demand all these things out of me and they demand and demand and demand. It doesn’t get any easier for me. But guess what? I’ve learned how to change all that because I do have control over my outcome. I’ve learned that certain things and most the cases, if there’s one constant in life, that’s change. And throughout that change, the only thing they can control is my perception of those things. And through the drama, I was able to learn how to love myself, how to respect myself. Most importantly, I learned how to smile. And he never stopped. There’s no reason to. And I’ll go back to this. The drama, The Saga. My practice. It all works in such. Perfect combination. That magic happens when you don’t expect it. And when it does, he can’t shut it down. Because every minute of your life. You realize that it’s a chance to be the best you can be. And as before, when I look back at myself and I realize how dark I was. How lost I was. Mr. Well, I was. I love it. I embrace it. And I’d go back to it because even though with my practice, I understand that if that wasn’t there, I wouldn’t be able to love myself the way I do right now. That’s what my. Lifestyle has done to me, I don’t want to call it religion or Buddhism or purulent Buddhism or any other type of practice because it doesn’t matter what it is, what matters is the outcome. That is what Buddhism has taught me. The division is made by the logical brain. The spirit transcends that. Call it what you will to make it easier for this time, we’ll call it pure land Buddhism. To me, it’s been my happiness that it still is.
Walking that first time that I walked. Into the temple. Those big doors that I was referring to was an amazing moment because again, when you would open those doors, there were heavy. There were very intricate. I remember there were kind of stories. There was a specific story that was depicted in the whole intricacy of the door. I didn’t understand what it was in a lot of ways. I didn’t understand what I was doing or what I was about to walk into and. When I walked into the temple, one of the things that. Was very interesting was that at the Buddhist temple of Chicago, and again it was my first Temple, I had never really been into a Buddhist temple before I realized that. People look like me. People were very down to earth, I’m not sure what I was expecting, to be honest, but I realize that demographic was very. Different. Yes, I did expect it to be very Asian like, but it wasn’t. Usually when I would go to church, I always had the option of English or Spanish. In this case, although most people were Japanese, there wasn’t an option. You were in English and. one of the most beautiful things that I found. Attractive was that the reverend was a female. It was no longer gender specific, the respect was equal. That was one of the attractive things that I found in Buddhism the first time. The curiosity sparked, obviously, to find out. What was Istanbul that was so cool and accepting and interesting to me? There were chants. Like the golden chain and the different. Chance that we had and none of them had that emotional. Manipulation. A feeling dirty or having to do something or asking someone to do something for you or changing you or making you feel better. It was about. Understanding yourself and the interconnectivity around you and respecting people around you and respecting animals and creation. I felt connected, I felt that someone understood a little bit more. What the world meant to me. They side with the same colors that I did. I felt my spirit dance. As. I spoke to the reverend and. I picked up a couple of books and I read about. The Buddha. His life as a rich prince. Then confronting suffering, huh? Where have I heard that before starting from scratch, leaving everything behind and throwing himself into? The part where people needed you. Now, as far as the lineage of the temple. I loved the fact that it was pure land. What does that mean? Well, there’s different types of. Buddhism and I need to find what was right for me. And much like meditation, where I would jump into different types of meditation and I would practice to find not someone else’s practice, but to develop my own. That’s what I started doing with Buddhism. It was the first time that I felt comfortable in under an umbrella of spirituality, unlike I had felt before. And yeah, during a while, I have to be honest when I was experiencing with different types of labels for spirituality. I never questioned Buddhism. Thankfully, because to me, Buddhism was is not truly a religion, but a way of life, and that’s a different conversation to be had. Excuse me, but there was a point when I was asked if I was going to take my Buddhist vows, and I had a very hard time with that. Don’t forget that I come from suffering and I was never accepted for being myself. The last thing I wanted to do was be myself and have someone say that label doesn’t correspond to you because you are this or you are that. So I struggled for a long time wearing the label of Buddhist because of my insecurities. Yet I lift the path and. It was one of those beautiful things when I realized that going back to pure land Buddhism. You don’t have to be anything. It’s called Buddha Nature. And in Buddha Nature. You can eat meat. You can drink. You can. Sen. But most importantly, you have to be responsible for yourself. What a concept. What a freeing concept. I experienced with different types of Buddhism because I wanted to know if this is where I belonged. So I went through different temples. Non-Denominational, I went to Vietnamese temples, Buddhist temples, I went to high. Different lineages, do you want to go to the lineages because I want to be disrespectful? But I never found my soul to dance the way that it did with the Buddhist Temple of Chicago. Yes. I understand that. It is of a Japanese lineage. And I understand that. It is the oldest temple that was established in Chicago. And yes, I understand. Now, I understand with those huge doors represented, because part of those doors, when I opened them, as I said from the beginning, they were there for a purpose. one of the beginning. one of the. Very first. Points of understanding how complete I was was by practicing better. And in our working married, what? Working meditation, I’ve never heard of that because every time I had been taught, meditation is always sitting down and always in a high there in front of a wall or on the ground or always sitting down. But the Buddhist temple of Chicago taught me a different type of meditation. There were times when we would take Q-tips. And go through that door and go through each one of the crevices. Of the designs on the Dover. And much like with Buddhism. It never begins and it never ends. It’s a constant way of life. Those stores represented my. The beginning. Of my path as a Buddhist, but most importantly. It taught me how to put Buddhism into my life. I was able. To take a Q-Tip, and with this Q-Tip, understand each passage that was on their door and on that door was Buddha’s life. And the similarities that we both had. It brought me to tears. I didn’t understand how. Someone’s path could be so similar to mine. Because it’s not about. Being glorified, it’s not about being above everyone. It’s about compassion. It’s about learning how. To put your lifestyle to practice. Yeah. Some people may say that pure land Buddhism might be the comfortable Midwesterner type. The. Liberal version of Buddhism. It might be me, not that’s not for me to judge. What’s what I’m here for? Is. To continue sharing the light that I found, it doesn’t matter if it’s the Buddhist Temple of Chicago Buddhism or whatever, because at this point it’s the lifestyle and that is what I’ve learned that Buddhism transcends all these things. And I sit every week on the floor to teach people how to connect with themselves, because that’s what pure land Buddhism has taught me. It has ignited the light within me. And when I finally took those vows. It was the moment that not only did I learn how to embrace myself. But embrace the differences. Of others as well as mine, because. To be Buddhist is to be able to brace everything. To learn how to be compassionate. With yourself. Which is the hardest thing to do? And from that self-compassion and that’s self-discipline. And yes, that self faltering. Comes the light that gives you the hope of a better tomorrow. That gives you that ability to want to practice your Buddhism every day, regardless of the type of Buddhism it is or religion it is, because it’s not. A thing that you practice x hours a day, but it’s something you live every waking moment of your day. It’s funny because we’re here to talk about. Buddhism and how you’ve taken your practice into. Other areas of your meditation or your practice. I have found that my practice, Buddhism, meditation, all encompassing everything. Is part of things that I never even thought were part of Buddhism. Recently, I discovered the art of running and within that I discovered. But even though I have been learning about breathing and controlling my thoughts and controlling my surroundings, there’s a different level, a deeper level . And I love that because it teaches me the basics of Buddhism. You never. Ever. Learn how to. The. How should I say this? Happy to be complete. Because it doesn’t exist, you always grow, you’re humble enough to understand that every day is a new beginning. And that mentality that was once ingrained in your head that you have to know everything, be everything. I’ll always be right. Only love the nice things. It’s no longer true because you learn how to love your suffering. You learned how to love the cloudy days you learn how to love, sometimes the part that hurts the most, the bleeding part because you realize that those are the parts that leaves the scars and reminds you where you come from. And most importantly, reminds you how to be compassionate with others because those wounds are the same wounds that other people have. And that’s for the interconnectivity comes together. And to me, that’s Buddhism. Pure Zen Buddhism was understanding that, much like the Sangha was there every week. It wasn’t there. For the gathering, we understood that after the gathering, we had tea. What whereas before everyone was ready to just run away and go on to their regular things, since whatever life was at that point for people because I was taught basically that everything was controlled by since everything was a sin. It was no longer the case after our services. We also had children come in and be part of the services, the Dharma kids, the concept of having kids. Give wisdom to not only the adults, but the reverend mind blowing the concept of having services for animals. The interconnectivity that I was hungry for was just so. Help writable out there, and I had no idea that other people felt like I did, that other people were engaged 24-7 like I was. And. It was amazing that the Reverend. On a week to week, basis kept teaching us things such as putting our heads together. This is gotcha. And while all of these years, as most people that think that Buddhism is cool and this is just about to say, hi, there’s nothing like that. This Boeing is magical from the perspective, first of all that the Buddha taught us, then when we bow. To begin with, we bowed to the inner light that we have found for ourselves.
From a professional perspective was very interesting, because obviously, I already knew how to control my stressful moments by meditating and breathing. So what I started doing a lot of times when I had to do like public speaking or just to deliver meetings to senior management was very stressful sometimes. And I would do a lot of my breathing techniques and a lot of times I would go into my meditation practice so I could just bring the energy level down and then just deliver. People started noticing the way that I like, the way they started liking, the way that I engaged in not only my meetings but delivered and how I was always smiling and in control. So the thought of. Having meditation at work was at that point, a very taboo thing to practice, because 20 years ago or 15 years ago, you were not to cross your personal and your professional life. It was just you just never did that. And yet I apologize. And yet I realized that you could not separate yourself from who you are at any given time, whether you’re at work or not. So it was important for me to kind of carry that spirituality no matter where I was and being able to engage in that mindfulness before a meeting was so, so important. It allowed me to in enough. I apologize. I left it up because of the pizza. So. It was interesting when I started using my meditation techniques to engage in a professional environment. Not only did people start noticing, but wanted to join me, and it was funny because I remember when I was going to a conference for Capacitate in California, where I was walking down a park and people were meditating on the under in the park and everyone was in their suits. And I thought, what a great idea. So I thought, why don’t I bring meditation to the lunch break at the office? Next thing you know, people were coming over meditating with me, and not only did we start. Having better camaraderie, but magic started happening because the interconnectivity started happening. See, what happens with meditation is truly magic. one thing leads to the other that leads to the other and has a domino effect. Your awareness allows you to be compassionate. Your compassion allows you to be more of a warm and respectful to other people. Other people like the way you vibe. Having happiness around you, it’s just starts snowballing. And next thing you know, you’re just engaging and you’re loving your environment. That’s what I wanted to bring back to corporate America, because corporate America allowed me to step off of corporate America and work on my mindfulness. And now that I was at a point where my mindfulness was at this level. Inside, it just felt still that break between what I was taught between not crossing your professional and your personal life. So I decided to make a difference and a leap forward. And that is where professional mindfulness came about and I started changing the way of meditation the way that it was delivered. No longer could I sit there for 45 minutes and talk about Movidius and mantras. I had to make it quick and 40 in 15 minutes. So it was a matter of understanding teaching the quick cliff notes of meditation. You’re going to breathe, you’re going to put your feet down, you’re going to straighten your your your neck and go. At times, I would have to jump in and do a quick visualization as well as a guided meditation. Most people don’t know about zen meditation, a quiet sit down meditation. So it’s allowing multiple types of meditation to fit our needs. And as you probably know, there are multiple types of meditation. There’s guided meditation visualization, meditation v but asana, there’s Suzanne. The important thing is that all of these types of meditation should lead you to you. Think about it from this perspective. It doesn’t matter what you use sugar for, as long as it’s meant to sweeten things up. And that’s what a practice is about. You can use any of them. Because all of them are going to make you better at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what avenue you practice, you should practice something that makes you vibrate, something that makes you connect, something that makes you feel alive. That is, when you know you’re in your right path, your own vibration will tell you that is how you know. I practice multiple ones because that’s what I’ve been taught. And as the need and the firemen’s change and evolve based on either profession, time or location, I adapt my meditation sessions so that we can box it into like five minutes, half an hour, 45 minutes in a sit down meditation while you’re running, while you’re walking, while you’re eating, while you’re driving. There’s multiple types of meditation, and that’s kind of the beauty of it when you learn how to meditate and connect to that vibration. It’s about connecting to the vibration and allowing yourself to be. No matter what it is that you are doing and allowing yourself to connect. And yeah, that’s how we take all these different types of meditation and. Combine them into one to make it fit in corporate America and bring professional mindfulness alive. That’s what we do. There was at one point we were seen as kind of awkward and weird, and the results from the meditation is exactly what kind of change that perspective. I was meditating with these people about three or four years ago, so this was when there was no reason we made meditation something out of nothing, literally . And the reason why it started adhering in a financial group was because the results were so tremendous that there was no way of disguising or saying, Know what are you doing? That’s weird. It was more like, Wow, how can we jump into the onto that wagon? It was later on that day different because we leased a space in a building and different organizations started asking me about joining our meditation sessions. And later on there was they opened a a gym in the building. And since I already had all these people gathering from different groups in this is embarrassing. But because everybody had this momentum going with all these businesses in the building. They had asked me if I would be interested in leading meditation for them after hours, so I could bring all of them together and start their business. But it was. It just became a bigger thing and it was there was all this momentum right now because of all this. Racial tension and all this commotion people are trying to bring and mindfulness and meditation into corporate America or different anywhere, they can fit it in there. And that’s part of the problem that we’re having right now is that. Meditation, Buddhism, all these things that should have been questioned or work done before are. Are now trying to be developed in a five minute. Pill that everyone can just take and your problems are solved, but it doesn’t work like that, it doesn’t. If it took you all of these years to build your insecurities and your dysfunction, do you really think you’re going to change it in five minutes or in one sit down? It’s not. It’s going to take practice, it’s going to take patience, it’s going to take a lot of work, but it’s worth it. It’s worth the outcome, it’s worth the happiness it’s worth. The hardships right now, I can say that in corporate America, there is a lot of hunger for mindfulness. I get calls often from people that want to bring mindfulness and meditation, either during business hours or after business hours. But the hunger is grand, and that’s one of the reasons why we’ve expanded our practice from the temple onto a virtual. And as we continue to expand as a culture, we’re going to adjust to our meditation sessions. It’s a matter of fact when we come back and we have a hiatus at the end of May, up until Labor Day, when we come back on Labor Day, we’re thinking about doing a hybrid of virtual and still going back at the temple because there’s a lot of people that either can’t or don’t want to go to a temple but still have that spiritual hunger. And I’m not one to suffer that. So we’re going to continue to go with the hybrid mode and evolve with the time because that’s what we need to do. So that is what we are planning to. Change in order for us to continue to move meditation into not only a professional environment, but any environment that we need to, because it’s not about the professional environment. It’s about the spiritual hunger. The meditation practice that have fled has always been secular. I often started with saying that I’m not going to get. A toaster, a blender, if you so choose to become Buddhist, you know, so rather you choose the Buddhist path or not is irrelevant to me because. As long as you have a hunger of finding your path automatically is going to lead you to Buddhism. It’s like expecting when you get a car, you need to get it onto a highway sooner or later. Bless you. And that’s basically why I’m not really concerned about. Providing an avenue. For people to turn into Buddhists, I believe that. Again, I think by leading by example is one of the biggest things. And when I have people wanting to learn my practice, learn why I smile and mimic what I do. That’s a big win for me right there. Bluster and. Yes. When I when I teach, the conversation is I’ve received more. Is there more than ever in being able to understand what meditation is, what Buddhism is about? Why do you think this way? I love the way you, you laugh. You’re always in a positive mood. Someone just cut you off. Why are you smiling? You know things of that nature. To me, that’s. A way of. Showing my light and saying. Don’t. Don’t walk my path, walk your home, but hey, you can. You could be like me, you could be this happy. You could be as as a goofball, as you want to be because life truly is is short and when you. When you realize how short it is, that’s when you realize how much you want to live, and that’s how you realize that you don’t have time to sit there and wonder if it’s OK or if it’s OK for other people to allow you to live. So the label of Buddhist or meditative or run or whatever it may be, is irrelevant because you learn how to live. And at the end of the day, that’s really what matters. I feel that. On a day to day basis, yes, people have a little bit more of the curiosity and the ability to ask me about Buddhism , ask me about meditation. The avenue has obviously been there a lot more than it has ever been before because of technology. And I think that I’m hoping that just by living my life the way I do, I invite others to follow my path.
What my relationship with the reverend were very interesting, well, here’s the relationship with my son. I’ve learned and one of the things that I really appreciated was and this is a concept that often people use as a cliche and that’s learning by example. I feel that. We lead on a day to day basis. These ministers. Live their life in such ways that they. It’s a concept that I also learned from them. Pearls of wisdom. Every single day we learn from people, and the ministers were amazing in the way that they would teach by being. Anyone can read a book, anyone can read a dharma. But that was my biggest mistake before was that I didn’t want to follow a practice that was just opening a book and reading it. It was someone actually walking the talk, walking the book, walking the words, and these people always did. I remember every time we had the. Our service after service, we had tea and Reverend of Chicago did something that was so beautiful because. Well, multiple religions have a way of saying thank you for the food and put your hands together or whatever. Different ways of saying thank you. one of the things that always kept I always kept in my heart was putting my hands together and saying to the life and the hands. Simple. But so meaningful because it was paying homage to all the life that endured in all the hands that it took to get this food on my table. Simple, solid, mindful practice. And like that it can talk about 20 other thousand things that I learned from my ministers by doing on a day to day basis. Yeah, there were times when I would go back to them and say, I have this difficulty in certain things. And it was nice to be able to sit down and from a very personal Buddhist perspective, get some light. But I’ll be very honest. If I found. one of the strongest. Rocks in my practice. It was definitely Richard, the person that taught me how to sharpen my meditation practice, mostly because. He could tap into. What was here and what was here? I’d like to think. That as a post, as opposed to a minister or someone that’s speaking, that is a one way communication. When you sit. When you sit in complete silence. In the nude. In front of your teacher. When there’s nothing to be ashamed of, there’s no fear, there’s no ugliness. It is one of the most. Transcendent moments that you can possibly have. There’s nothing to hide. Everything is there for people to see and show. Because there’s nothing for you to be ashamed of. You’re in complete control of your life, which I was never part of before. And when you have that moment. Of explaining your deepest illogical thoughts. To the person that could sit there in silence and not judge you. Because he understands or she understands that you already judge yourself the worst that you’ve already have caused so much suffering to yourself. They had. Was the beginning of compassion in my practice that I was taught. And it came not from him, but his own way of dealing with his own hate and his own compassion. That’s what I was. To me, that’s who I learned from the most. Because even with my reverend, I could never speak of things that were in my head that were so to me. Demonic, even thinking or feeling or. Sensing or experiencing or one of the challenging things that we do in meditation is that you surrender your logic to your subconscious. So a lot of these really dark thoughts come to your foreground and sometimes you have to confront them. I take that back. You always turn to confront them. Because you have nothing to fear for. Come back to and that’s kind of the beauty of the before and the now, whereas before I would fear. Things. And push them away because it was easier for me to not confront. Now I’m confident. Now I know who I am. I know my voice. My practice. My teachers, my dharma, taught me how to respect myself. And by consequence, it’s taken the fear of so many things. Fear of failing. Because I said my own success. No one can tell me I’m a failure. I am a success. I’ve conquered so many things that I didn’t think I was going to. And if you see in that statement. Nothing was external. It was all about me. Whereas before. I couldn’t have said that. I’ve learned how to be happy with my practice because it’s been difficult. But Richard was the one that taught me how to change that difficulty into appreciation. As of right now. Ten years later, I still teach what he taught me. To breathe in awareness and breathe out appreciation. And when you light up the light. It’s in here. It’s not about the candle, it’s not about the incense, it’s not about the Buddha. It’s about the self. So my teachings came from him from. Taking my insecurities, taking my fears, taking my shame, taking my all these ugly things and disrobing from them and truly being comfortable with myself and I’ve never felt. That comfort with anyone, because. Again. It was the first time. That no one was there to judge me, approve of me or reject me. Or anything else? He just taught me how to be me. Life has been rough in a way, I’ve encountered cancer a couple of times in my life. And. Talk about. Rubber hitting the road. Talk about having your spirituality come in and rescue you from the depth of. Insanity, sometimes, you know, it’s when your mortality gets tampered with and impermanence takes a front row role in your in your awareness. It’s rough and. Irreverent, unfortunately, fell ill as well. And the way she handled it was. In the most. Compassionate and. Realistic way. It was. As if. She had nothing to regret because every single day of her life, she loved every one of them. And she knew that. Even if the numbers. Even if her days were numbered, each one of them had the significance that the previous one had because nothing had changed the importance of her life. And if that’s not a teaching right there. Sometimes we don’t communicate with words as well as we do. With. ActionScript vision, you know, visual things. But when you see someone. Walking their path. That’s the best way that they can teach and inspire others to be.
When I left my company, my comfort job of six figures when my consciousness changed. It was kind of on a parallel as the time that I found the Buddhist temple of Chicago. But at this point 20 years ago. When I found the temple and when I decided to step off of corporate America and I decided to be a radical and leave my comfort zone behind because I wanted to experience the full potential of Albert and I wanted to start from scratch. So I put my technical I have at that point, I already had about 20 years in the industry and that was again pretty competitive, pretty solid. I. Not to be rude, but I was I was I was pretty hot in the market at that point. And my family did not understand why I had left my good paying job and my big title to work for a not for profit organization that was going to pay me 50% or less of my salary. Had Albert lost his mind? Yeah. And his spirit, too, because I had not one and I was hungry to find myself. And I was hungry to find who I was, where I was going and find my own trajectory. So I left my comfort zone to. Find my path. I went to work for a company called second Harvest, second Harvest was a not for profit organization that helped hunger relief. I work for this company and I’m blown out of this world because people are engaged. People no longer want to work for the eight hours or collect their paychecks and get out. People want to work after hours and help the people that truly have the need of no food on their table. They roll up their sleeves, some of their technical, comfortable chairs. And they go and either serve the hungry or translate for the people that can’t speak the language or help a church organize their kitchen or cook or whatever needs to be done. There was a different perspective that I didn’t understand in corporate America. People had a commonality. They had a vision. They have a focus. The problem was that much like my spiritual growth and this company was, that we needed to engage in questions of true deep, hard core questions. Who are you and where are you going? And that was very difficult, not only as a financial, I’m sorry, a not for profit organization, but also from a personal perspective, spiritual perspective, a professional perspective who was saying, Where was I going? Yeah, it was crazy cutting my salary so short and leaving all that comfortable. My God, I remember the times when I was. Working for an organization that was making so much money and I was so good and competitive not to sound modest, but so you understand where I come from. I realized that. I had to confront my own demons, and I had to step down from all the comfort things to grow. That’s when I realized that, yeah, I had a lot to grow and it was not going to be an easy path, but it was going to be my path. And no one else’s. So. From a professional perspective, we had to think about who we were and what we were. And one of the biggest questions where no one’s going to give donations to a company that’s called America’s second Harvest because it doesn’t describe what you are or what you do. So the long journey to discover our new name and a new brand came about. And that is where Feeding America came about the largest hunger relief organization in the country. two questions. Who are we and where are we? What are we? Understand the concept of the serendipitous ness of the spiritual growth, where the professional growth is just going parallel. So during the week, it was understanding who I was as a professional and was truly understanding that my title didn’t mean anything. What meant was the consequence of my work? The thumbprint that I was leaving in other people’s lives. The camaraderie of the people around me. The common goal that we had as an organization, as a firm. That’s where professional mindfulness came about. That’s where the understanding that you can be yourself and connect to yourself, no matter where you are. Work home, charging whatever it is. That’s my understanding of Buddhism. That’s what I understood. That’s why I was coming to understand and role that only from a professional perspective. Was I learning what was making me happy, but from a spiritual perspective I was discovering was making me happy.