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How to switch your Markova stack

Summary: How to switch among 6 natural patterns of human intelligence that influence the way you and your clients think, learn, and communicate.

Sergey's simple Markova stack switch

Sergey Berezin
Sergey Berezin

Sergey Berezin, founder of the Stanford University NLP club and developer of Holographic Speed Reading, developed this fast and easy way to switch Markova stacks that works for most people:

  1. Determine your current Markova stack using this easy questionnaire.
  2. Decide which stack to switch to. If you don't have a preference, swapping your conscious and unconscious modalities will change your experience in interesting and noticeable ways. List of stack characteristics.
  3. Put your attention on the least conscious modality of your new stack. (For example, if you are switching to AKV, notice what you see.) Notice the details in that modality — colors, shapes, and patterns for visual; resonance, pitch, timbre, and location for auditory; textures, temperatures, and balance for kinesthetic.
  4. Now completely let go of that modality, and...
  5. ...switch your attention to the subconscious (middle) system of your new Markova stack. This time, really get into it! Notice the details and distinctions ... to the point they're almost overwhelming.
  6. Keep ahold of this modality a bit as you switch your attention to your new conscious modality.
  7. Attend to sensations and details in the new modality until they overwhelm you.
  8. Now spend a few minutes simply experiencing. What do you notice now that you didn't notice before? What do you notice more of than you did in your original Markova stack?
  9. Check for stable shifts in attention, detail, and awareness. If you're noticing a lot more about sounds, or colors, or textures ... if you can now see, hear, or feel distinctions you never made before ... if your senses seem different somehow ... you have switched Markova stacks.

If you didn't get a stack shift, repeat the process and do it more intensely ... have someone else guide you through it ... or try the method below.

If you got a stack shift but don't like it, switch to another stack using the same method.

Wilma's Markova stack switch

This method works for about 60% of people I have taught it to. It often works for people who don't succeed with Sergey's method. And Sergey's method often works for people who don't succeed with mine.

  1. Determine your current Markova stack using this easy questionnaire.
  2. Start with your existing conscious modality:
    1. Notice the size, shape, and position of your "virtual workspace." This is the area where you put internal representations in that modality.
    2. If you use visual for your conscious modality, where do you put internal pictures? If you look at a picture of a distant object, the picture itself may be within arm's reach. If you use auditory for conscious processing, you may hear a "distant" sound as if it is distant, while actually hearing it close by. If you use kinesthetics consciously, you probably "know where things are" kinesthetically, even outside your body. How big is that space?

      If you have no sense of the size of your workspace, compare it to your workspaces in other modalities. If (like Jan) you lack a sense of the size or location of your virtual workspaces, this method of switching your Markova stack may not work with you. (If you figure out how to make it work, please let me know!)

    3. Find a "connection point" or handle for the workspace. You will use this to move it.
    4. The connection might be the place where the workspace connects to your body. You may find an obvious place to grab the workspace, like a handle. Or find its center by briefly shrinking the workspace to the size of the dot. Use the location of the dot for your handle.

  1. Do the same for your subconscious and unconscious modalities, and notice the differences. Most people seem to have the smallest workspace for their conscious modality, the largest for their unconscious.
  2. Decide which stack to switch to. I suggest switching just 2 modalities to begin with. Swapping your conscious and unconscious modalities will usually create the most dramatic perceptual shifts. List of stack characteristics.
  3. Physically grab the handle or connection point for the workspace of one of modalities you will switch. Disconnect the workspace from you, and push or fling it away. Let it move away until it is just a dot on the horizon.
  4. Repeat with the second modality. You should now have the workspaces of 2 modalities as dots on the horizon.
  5. Bring one modality back in the place of the other. Physically grab its handle or connection point. Move it to the place where the handle of the modality it replaces used to be. Make its virtual workspace the same size and shape as the modality it replaces.
  6. You may find it helpful to hold the first modality in place with one hand as you use the other hand to repeat with the other modality.
  7. You should now have workspace A in the place formerly occupied by workspace B. Workspace A's connection or handle should be the same place that workspace B's used to be. Workspace A should be the same size and shape that workspace B used to be. B should have replaced A in exactly the same way.

  8. Notice what changes. You will probably experience some significant submodality shifts. You may notice that you can now make finer distinctions in your new conscious modality. You may notice your former conscious modality more, because you filter it less.

With practice, I have learned to switch stacks in under half a second.

After your stack switch

Whether to use the new stack for 5 minutes, 5 weeks, or 5 months depends on what you want from it. I often switch stacks for just a few seconds or minutes to do a particular task. For instance, if I've been writing or editing in VKA, I'll switch to a more articulate stack for an important phone call. I might switch stacks for the duration of a meeting or a conversation with a friend to enhance communication and rapport, make the conversation more interesting, or bring complementary skills and strengths to bear. If I spend most of the week writing or working on the computer, I'll often shift gears by switching to a kinesthetically active stack like KAV on the weekend.

I find that learning to use an unfamiliar stack well takes me 3- to 4 months of staying in it most of the time. After 6 months or so, I start noticing that I've also started to acquire the limitations of that stack, so I switch to something else. Once you get good at running one stack, a lot of the skills will transfer to other stacks. I now use all 6 stacks skillfully.

Over time, you will probably notice that your new Markova stack is better for doing certain kinds of activities than your customary one(s). You'll also discover what your original stack is particularly good for. You have a lot of skills adapted to that stack. It may a while to develop equivalents in a new stack.

Each Markova stack is particularly suited to certain tasks, and unsuited to others. For instance, auditory unconscious is great for verbal pattern recognition when working one-on-one with clients. It's usually not so good for public speaking. Once you get used to different stacks, you can switch your stack to optimize your thinking and perceiving for different activities.

Eventually, try all three unconscious modalities. Because your unconscious does pattern recognition, you will likely find the biggest differences in skills and abilities when you switch unconscious modalities. You may want to try each unconscious modality for several weeks at a time to really notice what changes.

Easing the transition

Some people find switching stacks tiring or disorienting at first, and may sleep a lot for a day or two. This can also happen when a person switches to a stack they haven't used in years.

Here are some suggestions to help you make the easiest possible transition to your new stack

  1. Switch to a partially familiar pattern, either by switching conscious and subconscious or conscious and unconscious modalities. Leave the third modality as it is. So if you typically use KAV, try AKV or VAK.
  2. Switch the evening before you have a couple days off. If you find the switch disorienting or tiring, this will give you time to adjust, sleep extra hours, etc.
  3. Switch about an hour before bedtime. This lets you experience the new stack and get used to it.
  4. Sleep using the new stack. This gives your unconscious time to make any adjustments necessary for good ecology. (You may notice that you remember your dreams most strongly in a different modality than usual.)
  5. If you're doing something the next day that requires a lot of attention or skill, switch back to your usual stack an hour after getting up. This lets you go through the day using the stack you're used to.
  6. Repeat the nightly switch several times. If switching makes you very tired, skip the week and repeat only on weekends.
  7. Try your first all-day switch on a day off, when you have time to relax and can nap if necessary.
  8. If you encounter a highly stressful situation or emotional upset, switch back to your usual stack if it is easier. It may not be! Often a situation that seems upsetting or problematic in one stack is easy to deal with in another stack.
  9. Give yourself plenty of time to get used to the new stack.


Switching Markova stacks can make life easier, create dramatic improvements in certain skills, and helps you develop your full potential. Each stack has strengths that can transfer to and benefit the others. Suiting your stack to your activities can also make life a lot more enjoyable and fun.

I would love to know about your experiences switching your Markova stack, and how this information helps you with clients. I invite you to email me.

— W. Keppel
© 2004, some rights reserved
posted July 2004
Creative Commons License

W. Keppel is an NLP Master Practitioner, NLP Health Practitioner, and NLP developer.


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