Operating Manual for Enlightenment

Recreating Your Mind

The prologue from the forthcoming book.

“If you want to hide the treasure, put it in plain sight. Then no one will see it.”
Larry Dossey

Lincoln Stoller, PhD, 2024. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Reading This Book

This Operating Manual is not offering enlightenment, it’s describing it. Shifts in states of mind expand awareness, but shifts between states only happen when there is a path between the two. There needs to be a bridge with habitable states of mind on either side, though the bridge may be narrow and the states may be limited at first.

The discussion is divided into intellect and emotion for the reader’s convenience. These are no more separate than heart and lungs, but we think of them separately, approach them with different languages, and presume incompatible points of view.

The enlightened mind unites intellect and emotion, so separating them may sound like we’re starting off on the wrong foot. I do this both because we naturally think this way—it’s practically built into the structure of our brains—and because it is the largest rift that needs healing.

The separation between intellect and emotion is the demon in the room. We do not deal with it, yet we implicitly support it. It appears in the mythic division between our lower and higher natures, between the realms of earth and sky, and the separation of body and mind.

Like a prejudice, until you see it you cannot correct it. Until we appreciate how we support the separation of intellect and emotion in thought, feeling, language, and behavior, we cannot bring them together.

Intellect and emotion are points of view that function in concert. Existing in one or the other makes for a savage or an immoral world. All discussions of self-awareness refer to both together. When fully integrated, they cannot be taken apart. They are as color and shape are to vision: one complements the other.

The topics in the book’s first half lean toward the intellectual, working to build emotional bridges. The second half looks at the division from the other side. We must make our language clear and recognize the prejudice we are creating. What we are separating with one hand, we are putting together with the other.


Consider a problem you’ve struggled with for a long time. Maybe it’s finding a sense of meaning or direction, being able to maintain a positive focus, or establishing respect or growth in a relationship. I’m talking about an underlying problem, something that always seems to bother you. Something that’s hard to put your finger on.

We naturally consider our problems as different from ourselves, and we rely on our skills and insights to make situations better. “Better” means meaningfully better in the long run, not a simple one-off reward. What should we do if the problem is not the relationships we see, but something we’re overlooking? What if the problem is in us?

Brian feels humiliated in his relationship, and he wants to end it. His efforts to create distance are met with accusations of selfishness and lack of support. Working toward what he feels he needs only gets him more of what he wants to get away from.

Alia married a husband with a grown daughter and an infant grandson. She has a wonderful relationship with her husband and her grandson, but the grandson’s mother—Alia’s step-daughter—resents her. The more affectionate the connection between Alia and the grandson, the more hostile the connection between Alia and the step-daughter.

In these cases, creating a healthy state of mind on one hand, creates an injured state of mind on the other. Are these problems without solutions? Are these even problems? Or are they processes whose mechanics we don’t understand?


This book is about states of mind. These states support focus, awareness, thoughts, and feelings, but are not the contents of them. I’m referring to state-of-mind as what you’re capable of thinking: your ability to see, recognize, associate, and combine. This is not a guide to how you solve problems, it’s an explanation of how you see them.

Your state determines your readiness, arousal, emotional ability, and self-reflection. From the directions your mind can take, come the thoughts and feelings you’re likely to have. Equally important are the thoughts and feelings you are not likely to have or simply cannot have at all. It’s difficult to feel anger in a state of love, or love in a state of anger. It’s difficult to feel calm in an anxious state.

Your state of mind orients your thinking, how you can feel about yourself, and who you’re able to be. Over the last 50 years, it has been increasingly recognized that one’s states of mind are not just sets of attitudes; they are physically measurable configurations of your brain. If you are depressed, anxious, manic, frightened, or confident, these are caused less by your situation, and caused more by how you’re put together.

Soul, spirit, and character are vague, catch-all, indeterminate concepts. They’ll never be measured or located because they don’t refer to well-defined things. Many aspects of ourselves continue to be described in unmeasurable terms of thought, feeling, and behavior (Canli & Amin 2002). Despite being unmeasurable, you can manage them.


Many aspects of your brain can be measured, this includes spatially localized blood flow, temporally localized voltage changes, and collective neural behaviors of coherence, synchrony, and resonance. These don’t clearly correlate with thoughts or feelings, but they do indicate your ability to perceive, attend, organize, plan, engage, and reflect.

We use the term “focus” in describing how we direct our attention and gather our thoughts. To focus is both to see, recognize, and process. Our conscious states focus differently, some are more externally and others more internally aware. We also have less conscious states that focus on our body’s internal processes.

The state comes first. Focus is what you do with it. Without a state to settle into, we can’t focus our attention. The state is our presence, and focus is where we choose to look. Focus without a state is like a lonely telescope at a tourist destination with no one to look through it.

Kids who can’t focus because of social media and video games distraction are not lacking in focus, they’re lacking in state. They have plenty of focus—they have an obsessive amount of focus—but they’re focusing on a dis-incarnated state. They are in an out-of-body state.

The properties of your state determine how you think and what you are capable of thinking. You can learn to develop, control, and refine how your brain and mind work. I will explain this to you.

Effective communication is difficult between people who think differently. Aspects of life that you are looking for are unlikely to be found if they conflict with your state of mind. Peace cannot be found in anger, nor love in a state of distrust; longing perhaps, but not love.

Peace and love are not things you will find in the world, they are mental states you create in and around you. Building them requires breaking through to different perceptions, dimensions of self-control, and processes of understanding.

Learning to swim is not a process of learning to thrash better, it’s a process of learning to do something that is not thrashing. Building loving relationships is less about finding another person who fits your needs. It is more about developing a different kind of relationship. Your future is not determined by what you are, but by what you can become.


A child may have a great vocabulary and sensitivity, but their mindset may make it impossible for them to see things your way. It’s not just their inexperience, it’s their different ways of thinking, seeing, and remembering.

You inhabit a variety of states. Some may be child-like, but most are common to adults: thoughtful, emotional, abstract, sensory, focused, distracted, and so on. If you’re in an analytical state while exploring modern art, then you’ll adopt visual, abstract, and emotional states in order to make sense of it. When watching a drama or listening to music, you will need to ‘get in the mood’ to become engaged.

These changes in states of mind are not verbal, declarative, or descriptive. They contribute to, but do not determine, your behavior or particular attitude. They differ in their qualities, not their contents. People in different states will see the same thing but understand it differently, and even when we’re in similar states of mind we can respond in richly different ways.

If you were a precocious 3rd grader going on a field trip to a psychedelic, drug-enhanced rave, you would not understand what you were seeing. No careful explanation from your 3rd-grade teacher would prepare you. You would recognize what you were seeing, but you would not know where to look or what to look at. You would be oblivious to or misjudge things that are obvious to adults; it wouldn’t make sense. It would also lack sense differently to different 3rd-graders.

operating manual enlightenment counseling therapy hypnosis lincoln stoller


There are states of mind that support understandings we don’t have. We don’t have these states of mind, and we cannot understand them. These alternate structures could be logical, emotional, spiritual, or evanescent. They could involve knowledge spread across generations so that no one generation has the complete picture. We might call them prophetic, inspired, psychedelic, or delusional.

Before I was trained in classical music, my ear could not not hear separate, consonant melodies played simultaneously. Instead, I would hear rich overtones embellishing what sounded like a single voice.

In order to teach me how to play a Bach fugue, my guitar teacher had me play one voice and sing the other. I learned to separate and focus on any of the three simultaneous voices of which a fugue was composed. I learned both to hear more and to hear differently.

Like the 3rd graders at the rave, we are like children compared to a person with deeper states of mind. We might model the behavior of a person with greater insight—like a child imitating an adult—but that’s an act. Complex awareness cannot be understood through explanation alone.

To “grow up,” does not mean to learn more facts or words. It’s not about how you move or dress. It means having a larger conception and a greater understanding. New ideas are necessary, but what’s more necessary is a new state of mind, one that can accommodate alternatives and contradictions without generating chaos, fear, or conflict.

Note also, parenthetically, that when an adult abuses a child, the child cannot understand what’s being done to them. The result is not just incomprehensible, it can be permanently destructive, a form of developmental termination. Metamorphosis is a delicate, interdependent thing. It has a limited ability to survive chaos.

Larger states of mind can develop with experience, but it’s not accumulated facts that define them. It’s not what you think that makes you wise, but what you can become.


We are at a watershed moment in our understanding of the mind, after which psychology will change. Instead of focusing on what you think and how you behave, we are coming to understand what’s important is what you can think and how you can behave.

What you can do determines what you can be. You cannot become different through the teaching of facts and behaviors. Reconditioning is not enough. To be different, you must reorganize your brain to feel differently.

This can be done, but not through reward and punishment. Instead, what modern brain science is teaching us, rather ironically, is that you can reorganize your brain using the ancient techniques of contemplation, meditation, exercise, experience, and feedback. Modern brain science has provided new ways to measure and exercise our minds (Koush et al. 2017; Thibault et al. 2016), and, as we will see, the ancient methods are related to them (Mishara et al. 2011).

In contrast to where we’re heading in the future, today’s methods of behavior modification are reductive: they change the pieces and not the whole. They do not change thoughts at their origins or question our view of the world. Most of today’s psychology is a dead branch on the path to learning new states of mind.

As is typical in times before there is a paradigm shift, old methods predominate. They are exclusively taught, endorsed, and subsidized. The “gold standard” is made of lead. Beware of the gold standard!

Instantaneous Enlightenment

Learning is a metamorphosis. Change does not happen instantly in real-time, but epiphanies feel instantaneous in subjective time. The change from caterpillar to butterfly must feel instantaneous to the organism because there is no intermediate thinking-being who is able to note the passage of time. Between being a caterpillar and a butterfly, the pupa has no brain (Jabr 2012).

The change from being a 3rd-grader to being an adult feels instantaneous, to the extent that there is no intermediate person between them. In fact, there are intermediates, 4th-graders for example, but for most of us, growth is a series of discontinuous changes. With each change, there is a moment of illumination when much that was obscure becomes clear.

The reason is fairly simple: a new state of mind is a whole rearrangement of one’s previous conception. There are no stable, halfway states to total rearrangement. All intermediate states are a slush of subordinate ideas, like an ice floe of broken pieces not yet frozen into a whole. Many pieces need to fall into place before we can make sense of a new conception. Knowing a few clues won’t reveal the mystery.

Instant enlightenment refers to these moments of illumination in which we can make new sense of the whole. It may take a long time to move all the pieces into position, but once they are, and once they fit, our world is rebuilt in an instant.


Canli, Turhan, and Zenab Amin. 2002. “Neuroimaging of Emotion and Personality: Scientific Evidence and Ethical Considerations.” Brain and Cognition 50: 414-31. https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/document?repid=rep1&type=pdf&doi=ed3589357560a62d42ac55eba00e74a70ae90473

Jabr, Ferris. 2012. “How Does a Caterpillar Turn Into a Butterfly?” Scientific American (August 19). https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/caterpillar-butterfly-metamorphosis-explainer/

Koush, Yury, Djalel-E. Meskaldji, Swann Pichon, Gwladys Rey, Sebastian W. Reiger, David E. J. Linden, Dimitri Van De Ville, Patrik Vuilleumier, and Frank Scharnowski. 2017. “Learning Control Over Emotion Networks Through Connectivity-based Neurofeedback. Cerebral Cortex 27, no. 2 (February): 1193–1202. https://academic.oup.com/cercor/article/27/2/1193/3056240

Mishara, Aron L., and Michael A. Schwartz. 2011. “Altered States of Consciousness (ASC) as Paradoxically Healing: An Embodied Social Neuroscience Perspective.” In Altering Consciousness: Multidisciplinary Perspectives, Volume 2, edited by E. Cardeña & M. J. Winkelman, 327-53. Praeger. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Aaron-Mishara/publication/229085070_Altered_States_of_Consciousness_ASC_as_Paradoxically_Healing/links/5679bc6608ae7fea2e9896e1/Altered-States-of-Consciousness-ASC-as-Paradoxically-Healing.pdf

Thibault, Robert T., Michael Lifshitz, and Amir Raz. 2016. “The Self-Regulating Brain and Neurofeedback: Experimental Science and Clinical Promise.” Cortex 74 (January): 247-61. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0010945215003767

Enter your email for a FREE 1x/month or a paid 4x/month subscription.
Click the Stream of the Subconscious button.