Believe it or not, even personal development coaches can sometimes feel themselves struggling with inertia, seemingly unable to figure out much less take the next step, feeling stuck. Recently, in the throes of a particularly impotent (figuratively speaking) period where I felt both my personal and professional life were going nowhere fast, I had an unusually vivid dream.

I was with a group of people taking a computer class, and the class had taken a trip to a palatial estate near the Pacific Ocean. I had decided that I already possessed the skills being offered in the class, so when we arrived, I ditched the class and took off on my own, heading up a mountain path. Suddenly I was surrounded by a small pack of mountain lions—cougars. They were aware of me and I was aware of them, and although I was nervous in their presence, I willed myself not to panic or to make any sudden moves that might antagonize them. There were adults and cubs in the pack, and they all seemed to be watching me and waiting to see what I would do. I moved slowly and quietly away from them and continued up the path. One of them followed me—somehow I had the feeling this particular cat was a female—and she continued along the path with me, watching me closely but never threatening or attacking. Eventually I stopped and she came over and started sniffing around me. Then she jumped up and placed her front paws on my shoulder, her powerfully intense and inquisitive eyes staring straight into mine. I was remarkably unafraid, and I just stood there with her, almost in a kind of embrace, wondering what she wanted from me.

Cougar Medicine
According to Native American and most other shamans, animals are teachers with important lessons for us about how to create, heal, and balance our lives. Sometimes they will appear spontaneously during a particularly difficult period or at a critical juncture. Sometimes they make a literal, physical appearance. Other times they visit us in dreams or stories in books or articles we read. Sometimes we simply discover an affinity for a particular creature for whatever reason.

Animal Speak author Ted Andrews says that whenever a particular animal crosses your path, it can be helpful to find the meaning or message in what that animal symbolizes in myth or folklore as well as what it represents to you personally. I discovered that mountain lions—cougars—are known by many names, among them, “Puma,” which in the language of the Incas means “power”. I learned that the cougar is the second largest cat in the western hemisphere and one of the fastest and most powerful animals, able to hunt prey up to three to four times its size, able to leap up to 45 feet, and sometimes staking a territory that can cover as much as 200 miles.

“If Cougar has shown up in your life, it is time to learn about power, to test your own,” says Andrews and DJ Conway in ‘Teachings of the Cougar”. “The cougar teaches decisiveness in the use of personal power. If cougar has shown up, there is a choice to be made, and it should be made quickly and strongly. A cougar leaps at its opportunities.”

In another article on “Cougar Medicine,” Lynx Graywolf says that “Cougar symbolizes one’s ability to accept and direct the course of power through one’s life with grace and speed. Its appearance heralds a time when we will learn to move quickly when the opportunities we have been seeking to transform our lives suddenly present themselves, especially if we are willing to claim and step fully into our own power.”

“The Cougar,” Graywolf says, “both stalks its prey and keeps a sharp eye out in case an easier, tastier meal presents itself. Then it acts quickly, not stopping to ponder whether one choice is truly better than another, but trusting in its own instincts and ability to get what it wants.”

I wondered about the territory I was currently staking in my life. What choices were available to me and more important, in what ways was I stalling and second guessing rather than leaping and as a result, feeling like I was stuck—even to the point of feeling like I had no choices at all?

The Power of Choosing
“It is always your next move.” --- Napoleon Hill

Too many times, in too many situations, many of us can feel like we have very little choice. Work, family obligations, attending to the daily duties of earning a living can leave us feeling helpless and stuck. Add to that the sometimes crippling fear of making changes, and we can feel completely paralyzed.

There are some basic ways to at least start to regain our personal power. One of the simplest is choosing even when you have no choice. In their weekly newsletter “Real Magick: Real Solutions for Real People,” contemporary shamans Alan Joel and Stephanie Yeh suggest that you pick a segment of your day at work (could be as little as 15 minutes and no more than one hour) during which you will experiment with choices and personal power. If you have some freedom in your work, choose what you will do during that segment. Decide precisely when you will start, exactly what you will achieve, and when you will stop. If you don’t have the freedom to choose what you’ll do, then choose something internal to focus on. For instance, you might choose to:
• focus only on thoughts that put a smile on your face
• be aware of the sensations in your right hand while you work
• see how much work you can complete in 15 minutes

The more acts of power you do, the more personal power you will gain. The more personal power you have, the less you’ll feel trapped by daily life. Just remember that you can do acts of power in any situation, no matter how little freedom you appear to have.”

Pick a Path
“I always wanted to be somebody. Now I realize I should have been more specific.”
---Lily Tomlin.

Right around the time of my Cougar dream, a good friend wondered out loud to me, “What if you just decided on something you really want to do? Instead of saying to the Universe, ‘I’ll take whatever comes along as long as it pays the bills and I don’t hate it,’ be specific.”
The words, “Physician heal thyself” came to mind. I had spent many an hour laboring with coaching clients to discover and make choices that felt powerful and motivating to them. I had also managed to somehow forget not only most of what I’d learned, but what I’d taught.

According to Lynx Graywolf, “Cougar reminds us that we need to express our power actively. We must pursue those things that truly feed us from the level of the heart and soul, as well as those things that feed our bodies.”

For me, the choice was to get to work looking for and doing the work I love most—as a writer. It was a decision staring me in the face as sweetly as a deer caught in a Cougar gaze: work that plays to my strengths and my experience and that never fails to feed my heart and soul—and every now and then at least, my body.

What changed immediately was how I felt. There was energy where there had been lethargy, anticipation where there had been anxiety. Ideas were flowing. I was writing—and getting published. I was moving again.

I can’t say for sure if it was Cougar Medicine that cured my paralysis, but the inertia of not choosing that had kept me spinning my wheels in the desert dust did begin to dissipate. I did find a way to feel and to implement my own Cougar energy, at least partly as a result of their visitation. More important, I was reminded of one of the most basic and easily forgotten truths: In any situation, no matter how barren things may look or feel, I can choose which opportunities will sustain me. And I can leap!

Animal-Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small
by Ted Andrews, Llewellyn Publishing

“Cougar Medicine,” by Lynx Graywolf,

“How to Choose Even When You Have No Choice,” by Alan Joel and Stephanie Yeh REAL MAGICK: Real Solutions for Real People,

“Teachings of the Cougar,” by Ted Andrews and DJ Conway,

“The Power of Choice,” by Joseph Liberti,

Author's Bio: 

Most of what has come into my life so far or what I hope is on the way, started with a dream. I love them and I believe in them and in one way or another nearly everything I do seems connected to them. Maybe it’s a Pisces thing.

Author. Poet. Photographer. Teacher. Counselor. Coach. Intuitive. Mystic. Channel. They’re all hats I’ve worn or tried on at various times and in various contexts.

No matter which hat I’m wearing in whatever setting; however, the core process is remarkably similar. I sometimes refer to it as Danieling, an obvious play on the word channeling that essentially means channeling Me.

Danieling is what I do when I write, when I take a compelling photograph, when I connect with someone in some uplifting way, when I understand something with a sweeter clarity than I had before. It’s channeling me, but it’s an elevated, more guided Me whose mind is clear, whose heart is open, whose eye is always on the wide horizon, and whose tongue is always slightly in his cheek.

I began blogging as The Shower Channel, a “wet-behind-the ears oracle who channels (in the shower and elsewhere) the ‘Meity’, the infinite many, the collective One and All who is always tuned in and turned on to the stream of well being that is ever flowing.” The Shower Channel is just me, passing along what I hear from ME when I take the time to stop and ask questions I care about and then really listen for the answers. It’s something I believe we all do on some level when we’re being our best selves and speaking our highest truth.

The Shower Channel–and The Shower Team as I enjoy calling my multi-faceted, multi-presenced, and multi-playful connection to Source energy and wisdom–is all about asking for and receiving guidance, of opening to clarity and inspiration whether it manifests as a channeled response to a question, a poem, a picture . . . It is allowing myself to be who I really am when I am willing to “know with the Flow.”

My first book of poetry, Tricky Serum: An Elixir of Poems by Dan Stone, was released by Lethe Press in June 2011. My first novel, The Rest Of Our Lives, was published in June 2009, also by Lethe Press, and was a 2010 Lambda Literary Award finalist. My work has been featured in numerous periodicals, including White Crane Journal and in anthologies such as Charmed Lives.

My creative partnership with artist Cher Odum has resulted in a distinctive and original line of Poetry Art which includes poster-size prints and our unique greeting card art which, along with my own fine art photography, are currently available for viewing and purchase online at Fine Art America and in selected stores across the country.

Regardless of the role I’m asked to play, my aim is always to provide inspirational, empowering messages that point in the direction of each individual’s personal connection to Source or Spirit. I believe in every person’s power to create his or her own reality, and I am always ready to help you help yourself to a life that is more aligned with your own dreams and desires.