Dear Friend and Reader:
Mercury is retrograde through nearly all of August, from today at about 11:49 pm EDT until the 26th. The theme of this retrograde is, pay attention to what matters. The retrograde begins in Virgo, then Mercury walks back into mid-Leo. It then stations direct and works its way back into Virgo on Sept. 9. This is the layering process I’ve been describing — Mercury working the line between Leo and Virgo, as if starting in our ideas and concepts about who we are (Virgo), then moving deeper into the core reality (Leo). Looked at another way, this is the imaginary line between work and play. It’s also known by some astrologers as the sphinx point, where the cat (Leo) meets the woman (Virgo).
Mercury retrograde has garnered a reputation for being something to dread, a time when all hell breaks loose. But this is as much about how we perceive things as it is how they actually are. You might think of the total effect as your mental projector being out of focus. The image — the message, or your perception of it — isn’t clear, and that can lead to misinterpretation, frustration and ultimately ideas that take you off course. This is part of what has lead to lists of “don’ts” favored by many astrology resources regarding Mercury’s apparent backward motion: don’t spend money you don’t have to spend; don’t expect communication to go well; don’t count on getting to your destination smoothly; don’t fix or replace things that break until after Mercury moves direct; and so on. Usually this advice works because your own perception is likely to be a little out of sorts; you might overestimate a need, or worry too much about something that appears to be a problem but really is not.
But then the projector comes back into focus. These are the moments that provide a worthwhile opportunity to dive deep into your own psyche. While your outward vision may often be distorted during this phase, working with the sense of backwardness/inwardness is a way to flow Mercury-style and actually get somewhere new — and feel good about it. Like any trip undertaken during this phase of Mercury’s orbit, the internal one requires a little extra patience and preparation, mostly of your attitude and expectations. You’ll want to pay attention to all the inner scenery and signposts that come into view, and keep an eye on your psyche’s dashboard: when you start to rev high or overheat or run low on gas, it’s time to stop. Let things cool down; refill your well; slow down the mental chatter and your reactions to others until you’ve found a little perspective. The idea is to learn about yourself, and that’s hard to do if you’re speeding down the highway yelling at the other drivers. It’s easier if you’re involved in some creative or contemplative activity, but in any case, you would need to apply a little self-observation.
One reminder is — figure out what matters, and when you don’t know, pause. Early in the retrograde, there is a temptation to rebel against something, though you may be working with incomplete or incorrect information. Rather than stage an insurrection against someone who has your best interests at heart, who is devoted to you and helpful, I suggest you take your time and make sure you know what you’re talking about.
Aries (March 20-April 19) — If you don’t feel like getting dragged into all kinds of emotional dramas this month, I suggest you proceed slowly and carefully. Make sure you know who has what agenda — and closer to the point, make sure you know your agenda. One potential trap for you is falling prey to your own insecurity, then over-reading into something you don’t understand, which turns out to be based on your own confusion and misunderstanding. It would benefit you greatly to look at your life, and the world around you, through the widest possible lens. Try to see the whole picture, so that you’re less inclined to take things personally when they’re not directed at you. You will have one occasion after the next to realize that what’s happening in your environment is not all about you — which will come as a great relief.
Taurus (April 19-May 20) — This is a time to stretch, to open up new territory in your life, and most of all to widen your circle of friends. You are changing; it’s time to surround yourself with people who reflect the ways in which you’re growing. Whatever your social role has been in the past (group coordinator, token shy person, the reasonable one) you’re likely to be taking on a new position among the people who are closest to you. To many you will seem like you’re becoming a revolutionary by refusing to put up with the same ridiculous social rules you might have thought were wonderful just a year ago. Don’t make excuses for why you want to take more liberty. Remember, anyone you think deserves to be impressed is unlikely to be worth the effort.
Gemini (May 20-June 21) — You know it’s time to make some changes at home, but in truth there is no rush. Make sure you understand what you want to rearrange and why, and carefully consider your options for doing so. You may discover somewhat larger goals than redecorating; you seem to be reaching a psychological limit of some kind. But over the next month, you will be able to see your situation a number of different ways. What seems so dire today may seem a lot less important a month from now, but by then you will have clarified what it is you want to accomplish. Let the impulse phase pass; pay attention to what you keep telling yourself you want to change.
Cancer (June 21-July 22) — Mars enters your sign the first week of the month, which will provide plenty of energy for you to pursue your goals. But I have a few words of temperance and caution, one of which is to make a special effort to get along with women. By that I mean, stand your ground but avoid unnecessary conflicts. Generally you will see people go to one extreme or the other — for example, push people around for the sake of it (not a good idea this month) or back down when they really need to stand their ground. Part of growing involves making sure that you hold open the space to be yourself with the people around you — no matter how powerful they make themselves out to be, or how influential you may perceive them as being.
Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — What seems to be a financial issue is likely to be nothing of the kind. It may start there, but once you get past the illusion that money is the actual matter, or that money sets a limit of some kind, you’re likely to discover that you have many more options and a lot more freedom than you previously thought. Life really is a matter of deciding what is important to you and then being determined to make it happen. Reciting the mantra of a bad economy or bad job market does not create opportunity, it merely blinds you to it. If you find yourself giving yourself negative messages (which are often excuses for not daring to make an effort), there’s always time to stop, think and decide what you really want.
Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — How can you be sure if a loved one is telling you the truth? Or similarly, how can you be certain that someone you’re interested in is worth the effort? The answer is that it usually takes some time, making conscious observations and then checking your perceptions. Most of the time when we go wrong with someone else, we ignored information that would have served us well. We learn things about people over time, and we don’t use it — and this counts for both the ways in which people reveal themselves to be deceptive, or alternately, loving and supportive. In the immortal words of my old therapist Joe, the thing to do is use what you know. Don’t pretend; don’t ignore; track your thinking and test whether you were noticing the obvious, and whether you’re putting it to work.
Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — This is a beautifully ambitious moment for you, but timing is everything. You might not be able to act on your plans immediately, for a number of reasons (unusual delays, everyone is out of town, the so-and-so business doesn’t do anything in August, etc.). That said, you will want to be ready when the time comes to take action, so no matter how sleepy or disorganized ‘the world’ seems to be this month, make sure you’re getting your ideas in order, and using your time to understand your most authentic goals. That said, you may find yourself encountering unusual opportunities over the next few weeks, and I suggest you be open to them. But please don’t sign anything or make any big promises until Mercury stations direct on Aug. 26, preferably holding off till a few days later. Till then, count everything as a bold experiment.
Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — This is going to be an interesting month — promise. Your life will be full of intrigue, surprises and challenges, but I suggest you practice a little healthy detachment. It’s possible to have experiences without getting caught up in them; it’s possible to meet and experience people without getting overly involved. Be cautious of any form of negativity that creates attachment. This is one of the most alluring, dangerous emotional traps going. If you find yourself in an emotional environment that’s not healthy, make a decision and move on. The more you do that, the easier it will be to open up to the flow of positive energy. Intensity, by itself, is not a ‘good’ thing, but it can be an addictive one. Love is gentler, easier and more nourishing. Keep deciding which you really want, and you’re likely to have more of it.
Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — You don’t need to set your professional goals aside — you just need to know what they are, which will tell you where you actually stand. You’re doing a lot better than you think: you’ve made more progress than you think, and attained more visibility than you’ve noticed — if such is meaningful to you. There is an aspect of your design scheme that needs to be reviewed, the basis for which is making sure you’re not trying to live up to your parents’ expectations, or compensate for their perceived failures. Let them free, and set yourself free. They have no place in the life that you’re living now. What you may discover is some of your most annoying hang-ups are not actually yours, and when you discover that, you’re never far from letting them go entirely. You just need to want to.
Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — You may feel like you’ve met your match — but I suggest leaving fantasies of combat, confrontation or even competition out of your diet. There are two main influences driving you now — one is somewhat aggressive (which may feel like someone is being aggressive with you) and the other is about mellowing out. You’ve been wound a little tightly lately, and you can afford to relax. I don’t just mean relax and take a day off; I mean relax your mind, and your approach to existence. Any time you feel yourself trying to plan out your whole life, or get control over every situation, remember, you have alternatives. They’re not substitutes — they are better possibilities than pretending to have power that you don’t have. The opposite to control is exploring your options. You have many.
Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — Take a breath; the pressure you’ve been under for the past few years is over. Part of what you were addressing were the constant demands of circumstance. Now, you have the option to focus your energy inwardly. In fact it’s more than an option — it’s a basic necessity of growth, because from this point on, your growth will develop from the inside out. This method doesn’t work for everyone, I know. Most people need to be bullied by their external environment, by people close to them or by encountering worldly limits in order to have the courage to make changes. This is not a luxury you need; in fact it’s not a luxury at all. The more you cultivate and develop inwardly, which includes facing your fears, the more the world will hold out for you.
Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — This is a creative, experimental time for you — and that includes exploring your erotic nature. But how do you explore in a way that’s responsible? How do you address guilt, fear and other forms of negativity? The answer is yes. You are able to respond (that’s what responsible means) and it’s possible to call negativity what it is. Ask yourself: what emotion do you elect to lead the way? I nominate curiosity, with creativity as campaign manager. Let your curiosity guide you. It’s okay to want to know who someone is, how something feels, or to discover how you’ll grow or change as a result of having a certain experience. It’s okay to have that experience rather than just think about it. You’re under no obligation to be a prisoner of fear, and you have plenty of passion to share.