Many people would define a successful life as a happy one, so we go about trying to be happy in many ways. Some people try to attain happiness through accomplishments and material things, while others use spiritual means. The problem is that happiness isn't something to attain or achieve, but something to notice. If you are busy trying to achieve happiness, you are probably overlooking it. The ego tries to get happiness from doing, having, or being someone, while the spiritual ego tries to get it from transcending all of that. For the ego, spiritual freedom, or enlightenment, is just one more thing to be achieved.
Wanting happiness and freedom from the suffering of the ego are worthwhile desires. The problem is that wanting anything implies you don't already have it. You believe you aren't free when you already are. You believe you need to do something to be happy, and you don't. That truth is very hard for the ego to grasp. The ego doesn't notice the happiness that is already present in the moment because that happiness doesn't look like the ego imagines or wants it to look.
When true happiness shows up, the ego is bored with it: It's too plain, too ordinary, and it doesn't leave us feeling special or above the fray. It doesn't take away our problems, which is the ego's idea of happiness. The ego wants no more difficulties: no more sickness, no more need for money, no more work, no more bad feelings, only unending pleasure and bliss. Such perfection is the ego's idea of a successful life. However, the happiness the ego dreams of will never be attained by anyone. The ego denies the reality of this dimension, where challenges are necessary to evolution and where blissful states and pleasures come and go.
The happiness that underlies all of life is happiness that comes from just existing. Happiness is actually a quality of our true nature, of Essence, which loves challenges because Essence loves the growth that comes from them. It embraces all of life, not only the pleasurable and fun moments, but also the more difficult ones.
Then who is life difficult for? The only thing that experiences life as difficult is the ego, which is made up of ideas about ourselves and ideas the conditioned self has about life. These ideas are all that interfere with true happiness. Ideas—just thoughts—keep us from experiencing life and the happiness that Essence is experiencing as it is living through us.
In any moment, you can experience true happiness if you just notice that true happiness is here right now. True happiness is much more subtle than the giddy high we feel when we finally get what we want, which never lasts for long. The ego wants happiness to feel like a high that never goes away, which is also why many people want enlightenment. They imagine enlightenment will be a state of unending bliss, which it isn't. In short, the ego wants every moment to be thrilling. But life will never feel that way. No one has ever had the experience of unending excitement or bliss in this dimension, and no one ever will.
True happiness—the happiness that is available and ongoing in this dimension—is a quiet contentment with life and an openness and availability to life. True happiness is steady and constant, although it seems to come and go as our attention shifts. Usually our thoughts take us away from the happy peacefulness of the moment because the ego doesn't appreciate peace and prefers drama and feelings.
If we stay in the Now long enough, we experience Essence rejoicing in life, relishing the experience of being alive in this ever-changing and mysterious moment. That contentment and love of life is true happiness. It doesn't have the excitement or glamour of a spiritual experience or winning the lottery. But unlike those thrilling experiences, true happiness doesn't come and go.
When we are aware of everything that is arising in the moment, not just our thoughts, we see that life is unfolding perfectly, regardless of the ego's attempts to manipulate it. The ego tries to intervene in every moment, as if it's responsible for shaping life. But the ego isn't that powerful. The ego's interventions take us away from life and bring us into its mental world, where it creates an imaginary life full of dreams, hopes, and fantasies—the life it wants.
The life the ego wants will never come to pass, however. What the ego wants is unrealistic and often not connected to the flow of life, out of which reality is born. Life doesn't follow the ego's desires. Life has its own momentum and reason, which is mysterious and can't be known ahead of time. The ego doesn't like not knowing and not being in control, so it pretends that it can be the creator of life, and through the mind it is. But the mental world the ego creates doesn't affect life except by taking us away from it.
The ego's mental world is an illusion that will never become real. The ego really believes in its illusions, though. It believes its dreams and fantasies may come true if it thinks the right thoughts and does the right things. The ego doesn't recognize that something else is at work, giving birth to life. When we are in touch with what's actually creating life instead of the ego's ideas about life, we stand a chance of being really happy, not because of anything that happens, but just because we exist in this miraculously ever-shifting moment in time and because what we are loves life.
The Now is complete and fulfilling just as it is. Nothing needs to be added to it. The Now can't be made any better because the Now is already as good as it gets. The ego will tell you otherwise and promise you its version of happiness, but the ego's promises are empty. Will you chase after the ego's dreams, or are you willing to see that happiness—true, unshakable happiness—is already here and that what's here is enough?