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I have a person I know who, as far as I can say, has been intermittently long interested in Buddhism, but never made a big leap in her practice to achieve and cultivate bigger achievements. She is sufficiently versed in basic buddhist teachings but, as this person told me more than once, is afraid of reaching a "point of no-return" - that is, to not be able to enjoy and do all the things she was used to once she crosses a certain stage of the path.

I tried to dispense some advices by offering details about my own experience and telling that, in reality, now I'm even more able to appreciate the same things I had before. This and a few other attempts never convinced that person (I never tried to persuade her, since I prefer that any person makes the choice that they most prefer) and my being aware that, to a certain extent, the progress in the path can be highly subjective, can only make things more difficult.

Not being able to offer a more satisfactory answer to Will I be able to enjoy life as much as I did before?, what convincing reply would you offer based on your personal experience and, if relevant, buddhist scriptures?

Please finally note that I do not demand that this, like many other persons, should follow the path to the fullest and most hardcore level. She may acquire a taste of what it is like practicing meditation, mindfulness and insight practices for a while and then settle at a level that she finds comfortable.

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From my personal perspective, I have certainly lost a few things. Now, whether this is universal or due to my mistaken understanding or practice, I don't conclusively know. But there is certainly risks involved:

  • Motivation for worldly gains and activities. While I'm generally interested in knowing what's going on in the world, I have barely any interest in participating in it. Neither achievement nor entertainment stimulate my interest enough. I am very occasionally motivated by a new adventure or challenge, when it comes to me - but not to the point of seeking one myself. It's not that I am lazy - I can easily force myself do difficult things, if there is any external reason for it, but finding internal motivation has been rather difficult.
  • Being able to relate with normal people. There are very few things I have in common with people. I am not taking sides in most of the current social/political arguments, I don't work on a personal project so appreciating someone else working on a project is not something that comes naturally. I don't watch movies or read fiction books. Even though I do follow the news, my perspective on things is always very different, and not enough common points exist for me to discuss it with others. A few topics I do do have in common with people, like children and the basic household activities, show my rather shallow concern towards matters pertaining to this world, so I usually find myself listening, learning and getting amazed at the extent people tend to optimize every little part of their lives towards the pursuit of ephemeral success.
  • Ego. Since I am trained to let go, be open to other perspectives, and take all suffering upon myself, rather than making others feel even the slightest pain - I can easily be a victim of other people abuse. I have to be exceedingly careful and sometimes go against my buddhist values - just to be able to survive and not be walked over by the people of this world. Trying to be an occasional egoist and defending my own interests makes me cause hurt to others - and feeling their pain hurts me twice as much. Dealing with this controversy is pretty exhausting.
  • Joy. It's hard to be joyful when you see things as they really are. It's not that I necessarily have a negative perspective on things. It's just that having a direct vision of how things work takes away the naive appreciation and replaces it with an adult concern for the inevitable side-effects or the dark underside of every happy event. I can't say that I'm depressed all the time, my mood is usually pretty flat, with occasional up and downs, but I certainly don't enjoy the silly things other people find amusing.

Now, the jury is still out on how much of this is my own bias vs inherent to Buddhism. You could argue that for every point above, there is a Buddhist teacher who demonstrate 100% perfectly normal behavior: perfect motivation to build temples, organize groups, translate texts, give lectures and do other worldly activities in support of spreading the Dharma; perfect relationships with normal people not just in teacher-student capacity, but also doing creative activities and even personal relationships; being able to be strong, centered, and persuading with all type of people - and in fact motivate people to change despite their resistance; and finding joy in all kinds of everyday activities.

That said, in a way my issues are all Buddhism-induced, even if due to my own mistakes, so having other people be leery of this is not a bad thing.

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What you gradually lose by practicing the path is:

None of which are pleasant to have or worthwhile to have or keep around. What you gain is unshakable peace and happiness (free from Dukkha or Nirvana). In addition you end Jarāmaraṇa and the cycle of Dependent Origination.

As per what you said in your text you are able to enjoy more which perhaps is due to reduction of the above undesirables. Once the are completely gone only happiness remain. This happiness is stable and not dependent on anything else and does not end. Therefore, you will be able to enjoy life like never before through not they type of enjoyment you have experienced before (ämisa sukha). This is a more higher type of enjoyment (niramisa sukha).

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Your craving towards sensations don't make the sensations any better or make them last longer. ex: if you eat an ice-cream, your craving towards the taste will neither make it sweeter nor make the taste last longer. The craving will just set you up for disappointment as the taste disappears.

This is a classic example of Kama-chanda(sensual desire) - one of the five hindrances, hindering one's spiritual progress.

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The Buddha talk just two things, suffering and how to lose suffering. For the most, to understand suffering, see it, the first Noble truth requires to face strong suffering by one self to investigate further and make use of the path that goes beyound it. Its usually called drunken in youth, health and drunken in life called by the Buddha.

Since liberation mean to get free, free of the cause of suffering, losing hunger/thist (taṇha)...

My person recently came accross this wonderful talk which might be very useful to read or listen to:

Train Your Hunger (The Sea Squirt) November 11, 2016

There’s a little animal called the sea squirt. It’s not very big, and its most complex organs are its brain and its digestive system. After it’s born, it moves around in the ocean and finds a spot that it likes, where it senses that the food will be good. Then it stays there for the rest of its life. And one of the first things it does after it’s found its spot is to digest its brain, so it’s just left with a digestive system, basically to show who’s in charge.

This is true not just for sea squirts... read further or listen audio

Practice Dhamma, for the most is like that of a Sea Squirt and easily we forget that Mara is still after us and still capable to get us. We still don't see the backwards and forget the Noble Truth.

(Note: This is a gift of Dhamma and not meant for commercial purpose or other wordily gain.)

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I have experienced the same things that Andrei has mentioned, i.e., loss of joy, relating with normal people, loss of interest in entertainment and other worldly stuff (in no particular order). It even became crippling at one point when I didn't clearly understand what was happening and tried to correct myself unskillfully. But as with many things it was a phase and I no longer suffer from those issues. Some things can become worse before getting better, so even if certain things seem to become problematic at some point it doesn't mean that it will remain that way. I know its not wise to generalize, but that is my experience anyways.

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