As a child I would occasionally ask my father, “what do you want me to be when I grow up?” He would always reply, “I just want you to be happy.” That is of course what I thought I wanted also – don’t we all?
But what is happiness? Where is happiness? Is it simply the thought “I am happy” and similar “positive” thoughts? Is it a particular feeling in the body like a pleasurable sensation? Is it found in romantic love, professional success, or some other activity/event? But what is our experience of these beyond thoughts, feelings, images, sounds? Are you happy right now? How do you know? What do you look for as evidence of its presence or absence?
If we believe that happiness is any type of experience that can be present or absent, the pursuit of happiness is going to involve an ongoing struggle as we try to get more of it, intensify it, prolong it, hold onto it, or find it again. Furthermore, despite all our struggles we don’t even know what our next thought or feeling will be. We can’t experience, let alone control, their source.
Another possibility is that we end the pursuit. We see that the duality of happiness and its absence is just another way for us to characterize ourselves and this reality as inadequate. If you look directly at your present moment experience, your thoughts and feelings as you read these words, innocently – without an agenda to prove anything, what happens? What is here prior to characterization, interpretation, analysis? This awareness that we are is not lacking anything. We are already the ultimate end we were seeking.