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Poll: Happiness

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Poll: Happiness
Answer
10/12/12 7:00 AM
Apologies if this is kinda naive, but how much happier has serious meditation made you?

And what were the key milestones?

RE: Poll: Happiness
Answer
10/12/12 8:17 AM as a reply to Robin Woods.
I would say equanimity was a huge improvement over the dark night. It bascially helps you accept things as they are much more than before. My reactivity is about 10% of what it was before that. I still get adrenaline and cortisol reactions but not like before. Before it could be paralysing. I don't cry as often as I did and feeling sorry for a "self" seems a waste of energy. I still have a lot of letting go to make it farther on the path.

RE: Poll: Happiness
Answer
10/12/12 9:59 AM as a reply to Robin Woods.
Robin Woods:
Apologies if this is kinda naive, but how much happier has serious meditation made you?

And what were the key milestones?


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. ;)

RE: Poll: Happiness
Answer
10/12/12 3:11 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Richard Zen:
I don't cry as often as I did and feeling sorry for a "self" seems a waste of energy.


That's a good description of equanimity, at least the nice part of it. You don't feel sorry about anything. You aren't arrogant either since you are just having good fun and it's not to get away from shitty sensations as much as it's the case in re-observation.

Also, the thing about money Jason said. I used to worry if I didn't have a few thousand dollars in my account. Now, I'm pretty much at peace with the idea that I could end up homeless. Material and money are just tools being used in my training in morality.

I wouldn't say that I'm more "happy", though. A shitty stage remains a shitty stage. It's just that I'm more accepting of the process. The feeling that I'm procrastinating my happiness remains all the time and by definition, it will remains until fourth path. There is a pinch of apathy into that, but it's observed apathy.

RE: Poll: Happiness
Answer
10/12/12 5:58 PM as a reply to Robin Woods.
Robin Woods:
Apologies if this is kinda naive, but how much happier has serious meditation made you?

And what were the key milestones?

That's not a naive question at all! There's nothing wrong with wanting to be happier and 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.

As far as "milestones" go, all of this can only ever happen right now and so any milestones really are only temporary markers along the way. It sounds cheesy, but the practice and the path are one and the same, but it can be useful to have goals to keep you motivated, although not to the point where it becomes something you crave. You don't need to put a timescale on happiness or becoming happier, it happens without "you" even noticing so just go with whatever comes up, but maintain a solid practice as that's the key to progress.

All in all, it's well worth it but it's literally impossible to say exactly why that is. emoticon

RE: Poll: Happiness
Answer
10/13/12 5:53 PM as a reply to Robin Woods.
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.

It has been a gradual journey for me with nothing in particular that could be marked as milestone other than when starting specific practices which helped a lot which include Goenka retreat, noting practice, Kum Nye Tibetan yoga, deity visualization, and recently yoga asanas which Venerable Rahula describes in the videos linked in this thread.

Also, emphasis on no feelings (neither good or bad) in Actual Freedom helped me realize that this is what is meant by renunciation in Buddhism.

RE: Poll: Happiness
Answer
10/20/12 11:40 AM as a reply to Robin Woods.
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.

RE: Poll: Happiness
Answer
10/20/12 12:17 PM as a reply to Robin Woods.
Robin Woods:
Apologies if this is kinda naive, but how much happier has serious meditation made you?

A similar question bugs me all the time. I hear about all the things practice involves, and all the bits and pieces of attainments (jhanas and stuff) but I've found it very hard to get an answer (that I can understand) to the question, "Yes, yes, yes, but what Is the point?"

I realize you're being much more specific than that, but I think I was equating "end of suffering" with "happiness", and that's why I'm seeing our questions as being similar. You may already have grasped that they're not the same thing.

ANYWAY -- a recent attempt to get to what I reckoned to be the heart of the matter was in this thread. Unfortunately, my injudicious choice of the words "joy and excitement" initially got it heading off on a tangent. However, when I finally got my actual meaning out, I think one of the most succinct answers came from Nick.

Basically, I asked:

Based on what it has cost you -- time, effort, whatever -- and what you have attained, how much would you recommend it? Is it really worth practicing as if my hair was on fire?


To which he replied:

I would not trade one day of this for a 100 years of being pre-all these brain changes. ... I would recommend actual non-stop practice of certain approaches and techniques ... It is worth practicing like your hair is on fire.


Hard to get a better endorsement than that.

Was he talking about "happiness"? Is that what he has "achieved". Dunno. The more I read, the more I practice, the more I wonder if the only way to know what "it" is, is to work towards and hopefully reach it. Could I describe, such that they "got it", the experience of love to someone who has never felt it? Or the experience of pain to someone who had forever been pain free? Or the experience of redness to someone born blind?

RE: Poll: Happiness
Answer
10/20/12 3:41 PM as a reply to Robin Woods.
how much happier has serious meditation made you?

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.

Some edits

RE: Poll: Happiness
Answer
10/22/12 12:18 AM as a reply to Robin Woods.
The way it comes to me is that meditation has given me access to things that justify or validate life--like the ability to help people, or to communicate deeply with people and the world. These things make my life worthwhile and understandable and beautiful in a way it absolutely wouldn't be otherwise.

So for me, the benefit is incomparable. Maybe it's like being a parent and being asked, "How happy does your child make you?" The question is hard to answer; it's more like you don't want to imagine what your life would be without the child--not because the child causes you to walk around in a haze of happiness (which probably isn't the case, with children or meditation), but because the child is your life's blood itself.

That's a great question. Hope my thoughts will be helpful to someone.

RE: Poll: Happiness
Answer
10/22/12 5:06 AM as a reply to Frederick Meyer.
Vastly happier.

Key milestones: similar to those found above, obviously:

Equanimity beats the heck out of the Dark Night.
Stream entry blew pre-stream entry out of the water.
When I first got good access to the formless realms and to really deep jhanas, that was a true blessing.
Nirodha Samapatti: AH! Now I had something deeply and profoundly restful and healing.
Beginning to understand intrinsic luminosity, centerlessness, etc, in realtime: that truly was an improvement.

Fast forward to today: 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.

D

RE: Poll: Happiness
Answer
5/9/13 4:32 PM as a reply to Robin Woods.
Not that much happier but I've only practiced for about a year and a half and haven't done any hardcore insight work or retreats. I think I may have been jumping around techniques too much and should have just spent the past year and a half working on basic shamatha.

RE: Poll: Happiness
Answer
5/10/13 8:59 AM as a reply to Robin Woods.
I've been meditating for about 5 months now(A&P decade ago without meditation), and there's definitely been a shift. There was a milestone a couple months back i believe to be stream entry, that has introduced an overall ease of being, and a marked decrease in suffering that has not gone away. Old habits that didn't serve me have been dropping without any real effort. Its not an bubbly, skipping through the rain type of thing, but a contentedness I've not previously experienced in my life. Of course there are bumps in the road, but I'm grateful for having found this practice. I thank you all for sharing your experience, as it has helped me immensely.

Shel

RE: Poll: Happiness
Answer
7/11/13 8:58 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
Vastly happier.

Key milestones: similar to those found above, obviously:

Equanimity beats the heck out of the Dark Night.
Stream entry blew pre-stream entry out of the water.
When I first got good access to the formless realms and to really deep jhanas, that was a true blessing.
Nirodha Samapatti: AH! Now I had something deeply and profoundly restful and healing.
Beginning to understand intrinsic luminosity, centerlessness, etc, in realtime: that truly was an improvement.

Fast forward to today: 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.

D


Something like this would make an invaluable -- I'd even suggest essential -- part of an introduction to any subsequent edition of MCTB.

RE: Poll: Happiness
Answer
7/21/13 10:39 PM as a reply to Robin Woods.
And what were the key milestones?


You get benefits every step of the way from the first moment you ever learned meditation till the end. In a way it's linear but that is simplifying too much.

I remember, the first benefit I received was that I lost my panic attacks. On the second day of my first course ever they came up, the AT told me not to worry, I held my ground and now they are out of my life.

RE: Poll: Happiness
Answer
7/22/13 9:55 PM as a reply to Bailey ..
Homey, if you're gonna read my first sentence you should read the second one too.

RE: Poll: Happiness
Answer
7/23/13 11:01 PM as a reply to Robin Woods.
Shortly after SE, I stated that it felt like over 90% of the suffering was gone.

For me that 90% was the constant worry that I might not measure up, the thought that I had to be ashamed for not being smarter, prettier, richer; ashamed of who I thought I "was." SE cleared that right up. Once I saw that "I" was just a name given to a vaguely defined collection of natural phenomena, all that suffering was cut off at the core. I still don't feel proud when I talk about how I have made mistakes or continue to do things that are less than useful, but I no longer feel like there is something within me that I can't change, yet have to feel ashamed of. I now know that all that I am can be changed, and all of it is a result of my previous actions, but at the same time, I don't feel bad about it. I guess it's because I realize that anyone who blames me for anything I am or have done is actually mainly hurting himself by blaming me or others, so the appropriate attitude is not feeling bad about my own faults, but rather feeling compassionate toward the being experiencing the aversion or anger or conceit or whatever the case may be.