When we receive alms-food, it is our training that we should receive everything with appreciation, but we don’t have to eat everything we are given. This is an important dynamic. Learning to receive everything with appreciation is a very good symbol for our approach to our minds and the spirit of our practice. Whatever shows up in our mind, we receive it appreciatively. Suppose we are having a quiet meditation, and suddenly a horrendously angry impulse comes washing through, or we suddenly feel like throwing up, or have a flash of anxiety such as: ‘Oh my god, I did leave the gas on!’ All kinds of stuff can show up in our minds, some of it expected, some of it unexpected, some of it predictable, some of it very unpredictable. That’s similar to the alms-food we receive. The training is to receive it with appreciation, and that is what we’re nourished by.
…we don’t have to eat everything that comes into our bowls. We choose which foods to eat based on whether or not they are appealing, nourishing or helpful. We avoid eating foods that are harmful, destructive or unhelpful in some way. And we make decisions about the right amount to consume of a particular food. Similarly, if you have a wildly angry impulse, you don’t have to act on it. If you suddenly have a strong fear reaction, you don’t have to jump up and run out of the room. Instead you can say: ‘OK, that feeling has this particular quality, this particular texture. So what is it going to bring with it?’
This reflection by Ajahn Amaro is from the book, Don’t Push–Just Use the Weight of Your Own Body, pp. 45-46.