A few things about happiness and appreciation…
Happiness, as commonly defined, is dependent on external circumstances. I have stories about what I need and want and what would make me happy, so when life aligns with those stories I experience happiness. But it doesn’t last. It is the peak of waves that also have valleys. It is a guest, that lives its own life. We can do things to invite it in, of course, but it still comes and goes on its own, and on its own time.
Appreciation is a little different, and can happen from who and what we are. From who we are, as individuals, it comes from a wide embrace of life, and a deeply seen and felt realization that everything that happens here in my life is universally human. No matter what happens, I can appreciate it for that. From what we are, as spirit, it comes from the joy of experiencing itself, independent of its content.
And then there are related aims, such as finding peace with what is (which invites appreciation), and being with what is (which invites finding peace with it). And the being with includes being with anything that arises, including resistance and whatever else may be going on. It is a being with any visitor, independent of who or what they are. It is the ultimate hospitality, which mirrors (and allows us to recognize ourselves as) the Ground of awake emptiness which already and always allows any content.
And here is the initial draft of the post:
It obviously depends on how we define the words, but for me there is a big difference between happiness and appreciation, and not only in the quality of the experience and how it is expressed.
The main difference is that happiness, as it is typically defined, comes and goes. It is the peak of a wave that also has a valley. It is dependent on circumstances, and circumstances as well as experiences change over time. It is a guest that comes and goes, and although we can do things to invite it, it still chooses its own time to visit and leave. It still lives its own life, as anything else.
For me, appreciation is more interesting than happiness. When there is a sense of a separate self here, then appreciation depends on how I meet circumstances, independent of those circumstances themselves. And, at least in my experience, it is also there when any sense of I with an Other is gone. It is something that appears to be inherent in who (as individuals) and what (as spirit) we are, only covered up sometimes by being caught up in different stories. (Although I cannot be certain about that.)
Appreciation as who we are comes from a wide embrace of life, as it is, realizing that everything that happens is universally human. And appreciation as what we are comes from emptiness dancing, from the quiet joy in experiencing itself, independent of its content.
There are other possible goals as well. Finding peace with what is, is one (which tends to lead to appreciation). Another is to simply allow and be with whatever is, including any resistance to it (which tends to lead to finding peace with it). And the third is to allow anything, including being caught up in not allowing (notice it, and not being at war with it). The fourth is to allow even being at war with it. The fifth, to allow not allowing being at war. And the sixth, to not allow not allowing (and see that).