I’ve been considering happiness often recently, and so I asked my father what he thought of it.
He said, it wasn’t something he chased. Instead he watched events come and go, paying especial attention to the silences between, staying as the observer, ignoring both the pursuit of happiness and the avoidance of suffering.
To me that was interesting, it seemed there were some quite Buddhist elements to that world view. It calls to mind the Buddha’s one line summary of his teaching, that nothing whatever should be clung to. It is a mindful approach, looking at the contents of the mind and letting go of things when their time is up.
But I think you can go a step further. While being truly mindful you can examine the negative mind states you get into, and find their roots, which often lead to the three poisons. Looking deeply can free you to a certain extent from these - for example I sometimes feel a stab of jealousy while observing people driving flash cars. Looking carefully I deconstructed that to a root of desire (for the car), and a measure of ill-will (for the driver), as well as a small helping of regret and self-pity. Deconstructing these things can lead you to freedom from them, not necessarily from the negative emotions themselves but from the ‘second arrow’ effect of them.
I think that is the point of the Noble Eightfold Path, that it is not enough to merely not cling to things, but to truly find freedom you have to bring a certain ‘rightness’ to aspects of view, intention, living, meditation and concentration. Part of that process is understanding the negative, bringing light and clarity to those aspects of the self which are shrouded in avoidance and ignorance.