Presence is a better proxy than happiness for meaningful moments
Just my thoughts on this for the moment.
The most meaningful experiences of people's lives are not necessarily the happiest or most pleasurable. People don't often tell stories about the most pleasurable moments of their lives. They definitely tell stories about the worst and hardest moments of their lives.
Reading a book, painting, playing music, playing sports, a great conversation. It seems like we're after the flow state more than pleasure. And I don't think the flow state is particularly pleasurable, but it's certainly peaceful to lose yourself in that way. All of these things are best when you forget about time and yourself and you are both fully there and hardly there. These are the moments in which you are completely present, but your ego is the least present (Freedom from self = Freedom from suffering).
"The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and sense in which he has attained liberation from the self" - Einstein
Is a flow state really more desirable than a state of high pleasure? It seems that way.
The flow state resembles a childlike infatuation and nonjudgment with everything around you. You are completely present, acting fully, but almost selfless.
This is feeling very Taoist.
( I think the animal part of us strives for pleasure, while the human part of us strives for presence. Clearly pleasure isn't the entire goal, most people are pretty averse to a world in which we are all drugged and perfectly happy. But what about a world where we are all perfectly happy because we spend all day having fun with our friends in the summer? That sounds close to a general utopia. The things we find "human" are the things that make us present. A perfectly happy society can be a dystopia only when people aren't also fully present. Of course there is still the overcoming of imaginary obstacles which humans tend to need to be happy. )
Our deepest sense of well-being is underpinned by a sense of purpose and feeling of meaning (!@Meaning is a Feeling - Outline). Meaning tends to come from presence, not pleasure. Flow is freedom, not happiness. Peace over excitement.
I think people believe neutrality would be a very bland existence. No, this is the existence little children live. If you look at little children, on balance, they’re generally pretty happy because they are really immersed in the environment and the moment, without any thought of how it should be given their personal preferences and desires. I think the neutral state is actually a perfection state.
The way we get deep into things is mindfulness and curiosity which both breed attention.