Over at the Dharma Overground, a forum of high level meditators..(none of whom are monks, all of whom are lay men, normal people like you and me except that they have spent hours upon hours of their free time to a dedicated meditation practice) a thread was started on happiness.
The question was, “Has serious meditation practice made you happier?”
Here are the responses..
I would not trade one day of this for a 100 years of being pre-all these brain changes. The life of tense restless unsatisfactory self-contraction has been gladly left behind. I would recommend actual non-stop practice of certain approaches and techniques … I highly recommend the route I took. It is worth practicing like your hair is on fire.
Well, so incredibly much better, I would say.
However, much of the answer really depends on what you mean by “happiness”; if you mean just the feeling of joy in everyday life, I can easily tell that it’s much more common, but that’s really not the more important aspect of the thing, just the top of the iceberg, I would say.
I think that, in the end, in terms of what feelings are arising -so, here I’m not talking from a pure insight point of view-, what’s not there anymore (i.e. an incredible amount of stress and worries created by little triggers that are amplificated by the tendency to react) is much more relevant for the general sense of wellbeing than the amount of joy that you may or may not experience.
The difference between now and the time when I first started meditating is the same as between almost pitch black and a bright sunny day.
Incredibly happier, and this is coming from someone that if asked in the past “Are you happy?” I probably would have said, “I suppose yea”.
The reason it makes people so happy is because we realize unhappiness is something we make up ourselves.
I was thinking about this the other day, and surprised myself to realize that I am happier than I’ve ever been in my life. It’s just an understated kind of happiness. As for milestones, most changes are kind of gradual. I remember working up to 1st path, just a couple months in, I started to notice that behavioral change was becoming a lot easier. I could drop some habits, like anger and frustration, just by being more mindful of them. After 1st path a lot changed, but maybe the most concrete thing that other people would actually notice about me is that I completely stopped worrying about money, which I used to do every minute of every day. And I noticed that the past doesn’t bother me nearly as much. I just can’t get worked up, or even interested, in bad things that happened. Maybe for a minute here and there, but not like before.
I don’t think it’s a naive question. I used to have the impression that people were downplaying the benefits. Some seemed disappointed in enlightenment. I wondered if it was worth the trouble. Now, only half-way there, I don’t have any of those doubts. It’s awesome. Like the man says, can’t explain it; highly recommended.
(Edit: I forgot to mention, depression and anxiety have pretty much dried up too. Details, details. 😉
I can attest that the practices engaged in on this site are all helpful in making an unconditional happiness more apparent in everyday experience. Due to serious meditation, specifically bare attentiveness a.k.a. insight practice, the way in which I experience the world nowadays is way beyond what I could have even imagined. It also continues to become more and more refined, don’t let anyone tell you that this is a one-off thing, you don’t just realize this stuff and then you’re unconditionally happy forever, it’s a process which isn’t always easy and can make it seem like you’re heading in the opposite direction.
Daniel Ingram (who is an arahat- someone who has reached the highest stages of enlightenment)
I can sit at peace, at rest, clear and silent: hard to explain how good that is, simply that, not fancy at all, yet oh so worth it. There is a direct sensate clarity that is vastly better than reality filtered through some other way of processing things. There is a lack of time pressure that is such a load off. Because the thing does itself, that takes all the work out of it. So many questions answered: priceless. So many extremely interesting experiences, fresh and natural, rich and whole: worth everything it took and so much more. The integration of the field without boundaries or special aspects: truly remarkable.