Interview Transcript

History and Discovery

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.

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