I stayed at camp, alone, to journal and spend time by the low-flowing Gila river. The sapling cottonwoods I sat cross-legged underneath were failing to provide shade as the sun steadily moved across the sky. The round gravel of the riverbank was growing hot, and the grackles carried on in an otherwise quiet bosque. In a pause between written sentences I stared blankly off across the river and into the forest. The mosaic of green was strangely interrupted by the movement of a large beige animal. I scrambled to decipher what it may be. I ran out of time. A mountain lion walked out of the brush heading straight towards me.
How she didn’t see me I can only guess. All I know was that she had no idea I was there. Maybe she was in her own mind like I had just been, not really seeing what was in front of her. Somehow she was coming, step-by-step, closer to me. I realized she was approaching the river to get a drink of water. If she got to the river she would be just a few leaps from me. How was it that she didn’t see me? How was it that we had been brought together in this time and space?
I realized that I didn’t need to answer these questions. I needed to act. Calmly I focused on her and announced my presence. All I could think to say that would keep me from inviting any panic was, “Hey kitty, kitty I see you.” I absolutely knew she would turn and run once she heard my voice. Then the unthinkable happened. She came out of her mind, saw me , and came to a leisurely pause. That was strange.
I took in and let out a steady breath knowing that the choice I was about to make could mean life or death. The big cat was also deciding what to do about me. She was contemplating whether or not I was a meal. Her ears were forward, eyes bright and, most importantly, the absolute tip of her tail twitched thoughtfully from side to side.
“Hey kitty, kitty it’s time to go now.”
Twitch, twitch, and not a single flinch.
My focus, unwavering remained on turning any adrenaline I might have into an intense power. Now was the time to get big and summon all courage. I rose, literally, to the occasion with stones in my hand. I was sizing her up and readying myself for a fight. Welling within me was the desire to take her head-on, but I was unconvinced I should be the one to break the tension. I knew that this was no fight I would win. Now at my full 5’2” with my arms boldly swinging out and above my head, I gave her one more opportunity to know how human I was, “Hey kitty, kitty it’s time to go now.” Mere seconds before rocks started flying from my hands, she turned and casually sauntered back into the forest.
What Does Cougar Mean?
For years I contemplated this encounter utterly unsure of what to make of it. I read about the meaning of cougar spirit animal over and over again in Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams and David Carson to absolutely no avail. “Leadership” sounded like it should make sense to me then, but on a deep, deep level I knew it didn’t.
For years, I have worked with her eminence in dreams and in journeys. Cougar spirit animal’s presence has been of constant companionship and limitless strength for me. I stopped asking what she was here to teach me and have learned to bask in gratitude of her support. Always when I remember my spiritual quest, I remember her call and I respond all over again.
How Leadership Relates to the Meaning of Cougar
Her majesty, the mountain lion is the authority of my soul. I have come to know this now, twelve years later. We so want the answers fast, but are we willing to wait for truth even if it takes an entire lifetime of listening? Are we willing to let others pose theories while our truth still eludes words? This is the essence of her grace, to hold us captive in her intense, predatory stare that strips away all thought. This is the truth of the fierce desire in our souls to live purposeful lives.
Cougars are solitary animals. The “leadership” is not out there, but in here.
Who is in charge of your actions? Your soul or your ego? Do the people you work with, your family members, and friends determine what you do? What I really mean is, are you living your life according to what they might think? Is your ego vying for attention at every turn feeding into the fear that you won’t be loved and accepted?
These are the kinds of questions you should ask yourself if cougar spirit animal has shown up in your life. Her majesty stalks her prey before she strikes. It is time to start observing yourself, not those you lead or those you follow. Now is the time to look at who you are giving your power to. Blaming others is an obstacle to your own authenticity. Feeling guilty or ashamed will also trip up the path.
The Power of Cougar Symbolism
Her eminence is extremely powerful, but she does not use her power to command a pack like the wolves do. Cougar spirit animal does not use her power to gain attention like the bison do. Her power comes as she moves through the world unseen, taking only what she needs, and silently marking territory so conflicts won’t be necessary. She is a ghost of the woods just like your soul is. Your soul does not thrive on accolades. Your soul thrives on silence. Your soul is not confused into thinking that community is everything. Your soul understands that ultimately we are alone in our experience, alone with Spirit.
At the time in my life that I encountered that beautiful big cat, I was right. It was not a fight I could win. I didn’t have the tools to live in my authentic self or to allow my soul to dress me in the morning. The path of cougar symbolism is not a short one with ticker-tape parades. It is a tumultuous and long path wrought with suffering and heartache, disappointment and doubt.
My ego, who ruled my kingdom then, thought the meaning of cougar’s appearance meant I was gifted and I was destined to do big things. I could never seem to define these “gifts” and “big things”. What I didn’t understand was that the validation I so longed for in her presence would not fulfill the desire of my soul. Luckily, her grace always patrolled the territory of my desire and informed my way to a greater love than my small mind could imagine.
About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch
Stacey L. L. Couch, Certified Shamanic Practitioner, works as a publicist and journalist for Mother Nature and is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. She empowers people with the ability to explore life’s big questions by calling on nature, story and synchronicity as a source for guidance and healing. With her deeply rooted experience in the field of shamanism and passion for working with wildlife and rescue animals, Stacey has a unique blend of rational and mystical perspective that makes the world of shamanism easily accessible to others. She values mindfulness, wonder, and compassion in her daily spiritual practice. Learn More about Stacey.
About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch
Stacey L. L. Couch is a Spiritual Director who teaches about archetypes and symbolism. Her speciality is working with soul pioneers - those of you who are making it up as you go along the spiritual path. She works with beginner and life-long spiritual seekers. Through working with Stacey, lost seekers find their way home and professional spiritual guides receive mentorship. Stacey empowers people with the ability to explore their purpose and calling. Wisdom found in story, mysticism, and nature provide guidance and healing in her work. She is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. She values mindfulness, wonder, and compassion in her daily spiritual practice. Learn More about Stacey.