Originally Posted by atreides
1. I spear softly with my recovering hand.
The most important sensation in learning to draw power from your core is learning to "spear powerfully." Your description of spearing softly indicates that you are not using your core -- simply letting your high side recovering hand drop with no thrust behind it.
By "spearing powerfully" I do not mean punching the water with your arm. Instead, learn to roll into the spear -- the power comes from your kick and subsequent back and abdominal muscle twist to drive your spearing hand forcibly forward.
If you can ice skate, you will know you have achieved core power when you feel a similar side-to-side swaying motion that you feel when ice skating.
Early on, I used full-sized rubber fins to serve as an anchor against which I rotated my core.