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Once there was a little mouse who loved playing in the sweet grass, chasing butterflies and munching apples till he was so stuffed he fell asleep. He danced and skipped wherever he went.
Even the serious elder mice smiled and pinched his cheeks, for he was much beloved in the forest and known for his joy.
One day when the little mouse was playing with a ball of twine in the nest, his mother sat beside him. He nuzzled into her soft fur.
“Mama, I wish everyone was as happy as me.”
“Where does your joy come from, little one?” Mama mouse asked with a twinkle in her eye. “Maybe we could give them some.”
He scrunched up his whiskers. He found joy in the sweet grass meadow, chasing butterflies and munching apples till he fell asleep. It made him so happy!
“It comes from the meadow,” he announced.
“Is there ever a time when you don’t feel joy in the meadow?”
The little mouse thought. Sometimes, he had sour milk days when the sky was foul, and he’d go to the meadow, stomp through mud puddles and yell at the other forest animals.
“I don’t feel joy in the meadow when it’s dark and rainy, so my joy can’t come from there.” The little mouse krinkled his nose. “Does joy come from the sunny weather?”
“It does seem so, doesn’t it?” Mama mouse chuckled. “Joy comes from where you can always find it. And where is that?”
The little mouse closed his eyes and silently asked where joy was. He felt a spark kindle in his chest, as if it had always been there, waiting for him to notice.
“In here,” he said, tapping over his heart.
“That’s right.” Mama mouse scratched gently behind his ears. “It comes from inside you. Thoughts move through you, like the weather. When your thought-weather is sour, you feel a sour milk day. When it’s joyful, then joy is what you feel.”
“I want joy all the time!” the little mouse said, opening his arms wide.
“Me, too,” said Mama mouse. “But that’s not how it works. Just like you can’t make it stop raining before it’s done, you can’t really get rid of sour milk thoughts. But you can always look in the direction of joy, and you’ll find it again eventually.”
The little mouse didn’t like this idea. Joy should come whenever he wanted. It just wasn’t fair! Sour milk thoughts swirled inside him.
Noticing that he didn’t like this feeling, the little mouse reached for his joy again, but it was gone. He tugged on one ear and tried to peer inside, but all he could see was dark. He stuck out his pink tongue, but he could not see any joy on it.
“I’ve lost the joy in me, Mama,” he said. “It’s not in my ear, it’s not on my tongue, it’s missing!”
Mama mouse stroked the soft fur of his head. “The joy inside isn’t found in your body. You find it in the Great Within, before your body, before thought, even. That’s where you need to look.”
The little mouse didn’t know how to find the Great Within, but he could sense its warmth, like lying on sweet grass in the sun, just thinking about it. He liked that feeling a lot.
Suddenly, the little mouse felt a surge of happiness. “My joy is back!” he cried.
“I can see that.” Mama mouse smiled. “It’s the pure joy of creation.”
The little mouse went back to playing. From that day forward, whenever he had sour milk days, he remembered to look to the Great Within for a better feeling.
He called himself Joy as a reminder about what he was made of, and that what he was looking for could never be lost.
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