Most stoves have a minimum of four eyes, or burners. When cooking you can navigate four different pans with four types of food at once, or you can just use two, most often the front two burners. Cooking our food all depends on several factors, such as: what we have on the menu, how much time we have, and how fast we want to eat. Our thoughts and process of deliberating on what is essential can be similar to our approach of cooking.
Let’s apply our mind to these burners:
Consider that we have two levels of thinking and storing the information you retrieve, and these are our most common thought options. (This is not a medical or psychological definition at all, just a mental concept for your consideration.) As you process your thoughts, images, memories, and emotions, you can do all or some of the following:
1. Deal with an issue or problem right away. This is a thought that can be addressed immediately, and should be handled on the front burners just like food cooking on a high temp: its close to us, easier to navigate, and requires our constant, immediate attention.
2. A thought pops up that requires attention, but maybe not immediate attention, or there may be nothing that you can do about it at the time. These are thoughts that belong on the back burner on a low temp: it’s definitely an issue but we need to stay focused on other things (front burner thoughts) so we can let this simmer in the back of our minds for a while.
The beauty in connecting the thoughts that randomly pop into your mind to the four eyes on a stove, is that it frees you to still show concern for things you need to, but it also gives you the chance to prioritize as necessary. If you are consumed by something that you cannot change right now, or do not have any control over, it belongs on one of the back burners, in the back of our mind so that we can retrieve it later if we need to. However, if an immediate issue pops up and you need to sort it out immediately, and you are able to do so, then it belongs on one of the front burners.
Separate your thoughts into: primary (front burners) or secondary (back burners).
Of course, there is always the trash can in our kitchens, which should also be a dump for negative thoughts, within our mind. These are thoughts that pop up and we have no business entertaining them, so they belong directly in the trash. No separation necessary for those thoughts, just remove them quickly so that you are not distracted by the food cooking on the stove (those thoughts that require your primary or secondary attention). You will know those thoughts by the way they produce negative emotions or anxiety. Get rid of those if they will not fit or do not belong on one of the back burners.
Thinking of using the burners on our stove as a metaphor for our thoughts can be a useful way to mentally picture the removal of burdening thoughts and feelings. This can also be a creative way to explain our process of thinking to others, or categorize your thoughts. If you have something coming up and you have done all you can do about it, it belongs on the back burner for later access. If you need to meet an upcoming deadline and time is not on your side, then this needs to be on the front burner.
Fairly easy to remember and apply!
Think of the stove burners as mental images for prioritizing, like a visual to-do list. It is not designed to capture everything we need or want to do in our life, but it can help us sort out all of the thoughts that pop up within a day so that we aren’t overwhelmed and can remain forced on our priorities at the time.
Another tip: keep a small notepad with you at all times. Here you can jot down those back burner items so that you can forget about them for the time being and return to them later.