The middle path in Buddhism leads to happiness by winding alertly along between pleasure and pain. Pleasure is easily confused with happiness. Pain is easily confused with suffering. It is the most natural thing in the world to seek happiness through pleasure and try to avoid pain and suffering. However, if we think that feeling pleasure is the same as happiness and pain is the same as suffering, then we are bound to suffer when we feel pain, and we will constantly seek pleasures to make ourselves happy.
When we experience happiness, we naturally find pleasure in what we are doing. We can do all kinds of pleasurable things without feeling happy. When you’re not feeling happy you can go for a walk in nature, take a warm bath, eat delicious food and still be unhappy. These things in themselves are not pleasurable. Conversely, you can clean the bathroom, do your school work, sit in traffic jams, endure a dental procedure and feel pleasure if you are happy.
When you drop all ideas about pleasure causing happiness and pain causing suffering, then you can find happiness where you might expect to feel pain and you can see how certain pleasures can lead to certain suffering. When you pay attention to your actual feelings rather than what you might expect to feel, you will surprise yourself.
It’s great to enjoy a cup of tea if that is pleasurable. It’s wise not to poke yourself in the eye because that will be painful. Life will always provide pleasures and pains, but happiness is something else.