This may sound obvious, but you have to want happiness to have it. You have to want to be happy more than you want to be you (the egoic self), with all your stories, beliefs, opinions, judgments, dreams, and memories. Happiness will never be found in being you, not even in being a better, improved version of you. It can only be found in losing your self—losing all thoughts that relate to the me, the false self—and finding your true self.
This is the price to be paid for happiness. Happiness isn’t attained by improving ourselves or by working harder or by having more money, more beauty, more success, or more friends because we won’t ever have enough of these things to make the ego happy. As long as we are focused on the me, we won’t find happiness because the ego doesn’t know how to be happy. Only in realizing we are not the ego—we are not who we think we are—will we find true happiness. When we discover who we really are, we don’t need anything to make us happy because we already are happy.
Who we really are (Essence) has always been happy, and it has always been possible for us to feel that happiness. Whenever we stop thinking or stop paying attention to our thoughts, we experience peace, contentment, happiness, and joy. Thoughts about ourselves are the only thing in the way of happiness. Involvement with the me (the false, or egoic, self) is the cause of suffering. The me and suffering go hand in hand: We can’t have one without the other. So the choice is clear: We can be involved with all our thoughts about me and suffer, or we can be in the moment and ignore our thoughts and be happy.
Although this choice is clear, making this choice isn’t easy because we love our stories, beliefs, opinions, judgments, memories, fantasies, desires, and other ideas. When we are identified with them, we are loving them more than we love to love—more than we love Essence. When it comes to choosing between our ideas and love, we often choose our ideas. We want to be who we think we are more than we want to stop suffering. But there’s no blame in that. We are programmed to love our thoughts. Nevertheless, the time eventually comes to wake up out of our programming and make another choice. When that time comes, Essence’s pull becomes stronger.
This is the point that most of you who are reading this are at, or it’s likely that you wouldn’t be reading this. It’s time to see that you don’t have to suffer. There’s another way to live. But you have to choose this new way of living—you have to choose to be in the moment and not in your thoughts—and doing so isn’t so easy because of our programming. The hardest thing about making that choice is that it has to be made again and again in every new moment.
We are never done making this choice because the ego continues to play its role even long after we have realized who we really are. Although the egoic mind weakens the less we pay attention to it, it continues to tantalize us with stories, judgments, opinions, fantasies, memories, and desires. Even when we recognize these thoughts for what they are, they may still draw us in for some time. How long this continues is different for everyone, but many who have seen the truth never leave the ego entirely behind.
It doesn’t matter how strong the egoic mind’s voice is as long as we ignore it. We can’t change the programming, but we can change our relationship to the programming: We notice the programming instead of respond automatically to it. When we do that, the programming weakens. This is the way out of the suffering the ego causes, and no one but you can do this choosing for you. Waking up isn’t easy, but neither is suffering. However, suffering is our default position, and there’s some comfort in that position because it’s so familiar. So we are pulled in one direction or the other until eventually Essence wins out.
Moving back and forth between the ego and Essence can go on for a very long time, even an entire lifetime. Without the spiritual understanding needed to get beyond the ego, it’s a formidable opponent. Once we understand how the ego operates and maintains suffering, however, choosing Essence over the ego becomes easier. Furthermore, the more you do this, the stronger Essence’s voice becomes. The desire to awaken and to be done with the ego and its suffering becomes stronger than the desire to indulge your thoughts, and then you are on your way to freedom and happiness.
From Anatomy of Desire: How to Be Happy Even When You Don’t Get What You Want