My friend texted me yesterday something really powerful. Although she's generally a very cheerful, funny person, she wrote, "I am not happy."
I remember years ago Wayne Dyer said that happiness is like a cat's tail. When you chase it, it further eludes you. He said, "Happiness is the way."
I see happiness more like the dot on a laser pointer. When a cat tries to paw the red dot, it goes away. It's an illusion.
I'm not saying that we don't "feel" happy. We do experience happiness many times in our lives. However, chasing experiences so that we might feel happiness only makes us feel more pressured to chase more of them. Then, when we aren't "doing," we're not happy.
I suggested to my friend that happiness is overrated. Instead, choose inner stillness. It goes beyond happiness and "doing" and allows you to feel balanced in any given moment.
Then, you bring this stillness with you to keep you anchored when the waves become turbulent.
The Stoics called it eustatheia, which means steadiness. It means recognizing that life brings us ups and downs.
When we complain about the downs, we further our suffering. We begin to take it personally, which brings us further down the rabbit hole.
On the other hand, we revel in our happiness. However, there is something bittersweet in it, because we then become anxious about losing that state of mind. Then, we do whatever we can to seize that moment, even when it's worn out. We build attachments and aversions, which keep us bound and limit our opportunities for growth.
This is where the Buddhists and yogis inform us. They, too, believe that much of the suffering--the "unhappiness"--comes from clouded perceptions. We don't see the potential of the flower or tree in the seed, so we bounce around from place to place looking for the right flower or tree so we can be happy. Yet the Buddhists caution us because all these are impermanent.
Instead, the Buddhists, yogis, and Stoics all suggest adopting a steady mind to gain clarity in each situation. That way, we don't muddy the waters with our demands for the moment to bring us happiness.
Instead, we see the moment as it is. The tail curls around the cat when the cat is at rest. Or, the cat sees the red dot on its paw, enjoys it, and remains still.