The sagas and myths associated with Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido are legend. I’m not sure that this particular one is attributed to him in particular, but it is a bit of a classic Zen story that could be about him. Or it could be about you …
Once upon a time, there lived a great warrior. Even when the warrior was quite elderly, no one was able to best the fighter, every challenger was defeated. The reputation of this great sensei extended far and wide throughout the land and many students gathered to study in the dojo.
One day an infamous young warrior arrived at the dojo. He was determined to be the first man to defeat the great master. Along with his strength, the stranger had a unique ability to spot and exploit any weakness in an opponent. He would watch and wait for his opponent to make the first move. In that first move, weaknesses were revealed, and the stranger would then strike mercilessly with both speed and force. He would dance like a butterfly and sting like a scorpion. He would poke and jab and taunt and test. No one had ever lasted with him in a match beyond the first move.
When the stranger challenged the great master, the old master gladly and graciously accepted, much to the concern of the students in the dojo. As the two squared off for battle, the young warrior began to hurl insults at the old master. He threw dirt and spit in the face of the master. For hours he verbally assaulted the sensei with every curse and insult known to humanity. But the sensei stood calmly, motionless waiting. Finally, the young warrior exhausted himself. He recognized and acknowledged his defeat and left feeling shamed.
Somewhat disappointed that no blows were exchanged with the insolent youth, the students gathered around the old master and asked “How could you endure such an indignity? How did you drive him away?”
“If someone comes to give you a gift and you do not receive it,” the master replied, “to whom does the gift belong?”
Hmm … everyone is a teacher. Everything offer to us, everything hurled at us is a gift. It is always and everywhere our choice as to whether and how we will accept the gift.