Recently I was asked to talk about the Fifth Dalai Lama of Tibet, and about power in Buddhism, two subjects I know very little about, and yet I happily agreed. Intention comes from a Latin root that means to stretch, and there was stretching to be done here for sure. I did research, learning about the unification of Tibet and the installation of the Dalai Lama. I learned about magical powers in Buddhism. The Buddha described the qualities that led to the ability to fly and walk on water and through mountains and appear in multiple places at once. Enchanting stuff, but my reading could not convey how it felt to live in 16thCentury Tibet, let alone levitate.
But then I recalled a cartoon in the New Yorker. A raggedy young man stood with hands grasped around a sword in the stone. Merlin, great sorcerer and teacher, stands beside him. Many had tried and many failed to extract Excalibur, the magical blade that would empower a king and grant sovereignty to Britain. “Use thy core,” says Merlin.
The muscles of the core or midsection are very powerful, as we keep hearing. Personally, I haven’t worked on them much lately, due to a sore shoulder and this and that. And yet there is an inner empowerment practice that corresponds to an ancient Buddhist practice for attaining magical powers. I that I call C.O.R.E.
“C” stands for concentrate. This does not mean mental strain but bringing Compassionate awareness to the body and our present moment experience. Concentration is compassionately allowing the attention to settle and collect us. The As the Buddha described it, when the mind is in the body and the body in the mind, when we are more collected or together in the present moment, the experience becomes more pliant and lighter. Sometimes he compared this to a molten metal ball, other times to a feather—both less rigid and fixed. Bringing the attention to the breath can help in the collection process.
“O” stands for open. When we sit down to be still and concentrated, we open to the life inside and outside us. It’s a wonderful paradox that when we grow still, when we bring our attention home to the breath and our present moment experience, we don’t shut out life. We open to it. We notice it and sense it. Opening is manifesting a wish or desire to live a greater life. Right here and right now.
“R” stands for recollect or remember. Sati, the ancient term for mindfulness in Buddhism means to remember the present moment. We gather our disparate parts—head, heart, and body. When these parts touch a new possibility appears. When we are recollected, we can investigate and understand our experience in a way we just can’t with thinking alone.
“E” stands for engage. Engagement is a kinder, gentler, and more expansive way to understand effort or persistence. When we are more concentrated and open, we can engage with life in a new way. We remember that we are part of life and that life is constantly being offered to us as a gift—air and the wind in your hair and impressions of all kinds. And love. Behind the anxious overwhelm and all the rest of it, there is love, coming in as plain and essential as breath.
So that is my C.O.R.E. exercise for you. Personally, my poor, overtaxed brain likes acronyms and I hope you do too. Still, these are the same qualities that lead to magical powers, just aimed at being present in life, which is magic in itself.