Mercury Retrograde can conjure up all kinds of anxiety, about technology being fried, plans delayed, travelling bungled, and nerves frazzled. Mercury Retrograde can be all these things. And it is so much more. It’s time to rectify Mercury Retrograde’s bad rep and appreciate its beauty and gifts.
What is Mercury Retrograde?
Three or four times every year, the planet Mercury (the Messenger), appears to go backwards. This illusion is the result of the faster Mercury “catching up” with Earth when it is closest to us. Because of relative speeds and positions in their respective orbits, Mercury looks like it is slowing down, stopping, and moving backwards. It is of course still continuing on its orbit.
Let’s take one little moment and look at the meaning of retrograde (ˈretrəˌɡrād). It is defined as moving backward or in reverse (flow), reverting to an earlier or inferior condition (a negative or unwelcome state), or in astronomy, in a direction reversed from what is normal in the solar system.
Depending on your perspective, a retrograde can be a positive or a negative experience. Let’s see how.
We have been in the shadow period since November 14, with the entire retrograde cycle ending January 10 2018. This particular retrograde stationed 28º of Sagittarius. This fire sign rules new experiences, higher learning, travel, technology, exploration, and optimism. We can go over or under in any of the Sagittarius-ruled domains. Overly optimistic – completely pessimistic. Those with a Sagittarius Sun, Moon or Ascendant may encounter strong challenges/opportunities this retrograde and can find their usual lively light-hearted honesty poorly received and misunderstood.
Because Mercury rules Virgo and Gemini, those with a Gemini or Virgo Sun, Moon or Ascendent, read on to see how you can reap the benefits of Mercury Retrogrades throughout the year and your life.
Mercury Retrograde has an effect on all of us; we all have Gemini and Virgo (and in this cycle, Sagittarius) somewhere in our chart. Take a look at where these signs are in your natal chart to see the areas highlighted.
If you have a natal retrograde in Mercury, the energy now will feel more familiar to you. Just remember the retrograde is not such a cozy time for everyone else.
Leslie Benson suggests on Astrograph to look back at what has happened since the Great American Solar Eclipse last August (28º of Leo) and the Saturn-in-Sagittarius themes since 2014 in your life.
Here are some useful questions from Leslie – “What have you learned about your relationship to spirituality, beliefs, religion, or dogma? What lesson have you received about the themes of responsibility versus free-wheeling? Commitment versus keeping your options open? Following your head versus following your heart? Have you found ways to synthesize seeming opposites into useful actions and ways of being in your life?“
What is Mercury Retrograde About?
It is generally advised not to start anything new that requires longterm commitment (mobile phone plans, binding agreements, marriage, etc). If you must, be sure to carefully check all the details and ask questions to make sure you have full understanding.
Some people also say to expect all sorts of catastrophes. Yes the energy of a Mercury Retrograde can be crazy – each one is different depending on what else is going on in the skies. Unexpected challenges and annoying inconveniences are not surprising. To say “expect the worst” is however fatalistic. Bringing more people into a negative mindset about Mercury Retrograde is doing everyone a disservice when there are so many opportunities for growth and positive change.
Whenever the outer landscape seems chaotic, look at your inner universe. Take a pause (and an exhale) and observe what may not be aligned and harmonious.
What truths are being swallowed?
What anger suppressed?
What forgiveness withheld? What grief buried?
What is actually the root of what is going on for you? When outward communications go awry, take time to renew inner communications.
Re-Thinking Mercury Retrograde
Perhaps the easiest way to remember what Mercury Retrograde is about is to focus on the “re” of retrograde. Think of words like reflect, review, re-do, release, re-think, re-write, re-define, relax..
These “re-” actions/non-actions can be summed up with three good habits. Mercury Retrograde is a fantastic time to practice these habits and deepen personal mastery. After all, one of the most ancient axioms is “Know Thyself.”
The 3 Good Habits of Mercury Retrograde
Be Mindful + Impeccable
If anything, Mercury Retrograde shows us is that if experienced without mindfulness and presence, things can and do go awry and even disastrously. It is easy to blurt out unthinkingly and unnecessarily start arguments. It is easy to get triggered by someone else’s words. It is easy to misunderstand. In a Mercury Retrograde, information is fuzzy anyway.
A friend recently sent me this article – 18 Traits of People with True Integrity. Check it out – there are some good reminders, thought-provoking statements, and inspiration. One of these – presuming others’ innocence – reminds me of what Einstein said – “The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or a hostile universe.”
Pausing to reflect what is said, asking for clarification, and observing our own responses can powerfully highlight our projections, biases, and shadows. We all have them and we have all overreacted, spoken out of turn, or unwittingly put our foot in our mouths. If that is you, own up to it and if someone pleads innocence, believe them. Believe the best in yourself and others.
Some say relationships are a battlefield. While battles are definitely fought, relationships are fertile ground for personal growth and a return to Love. Relationships, the Course in Miracles teaches, are an assignment. The more we uncover misalignments and reintegrate the parts of us we have disowned, the smaller the footprint an unhealthy ego makes and the more aware we are of where we can transform not-love to Love.
When you’re standing under the influence of Mercury in retrograde — it cancels your brain’s ability to hold onto old root causes — it’s a time of disintegration. It’s at these levels inside levels where understanding lives — without this level of understanding a plethora of misunderstandings takes place. It’s here — in many moments — at many levels — where conclusions form from the formlessness. Responses without assumptions allow time to serve non-common outcomes. This is the perfect moment to deconstruct in order to then reconstruct when Mercury and understanding goes direct again.
In a world that feels like it is on superspeed, disconnected from natural rhythms and cycles, deliberate downtime is essential. Call it a mental health day and take a digital detox. Turn off your cell phone and leave Fitbit or iWatch at home. Take a hike in the woods, a run on the trails, sit by the sea, and/or find a nice tree to sit with. Enjoy “slow”.
Taking time off means time to finish necessary tasks and to better integrate the new. Downtime allows for deep recovery. The ability to change gears helps us shift our perspective and be responsive to life. We can more easily manage change with the appropriate speed and state of mind. Flexibility about life, losing rigid unrelentless regimentation, is an important soft skill.
When we make a strong habit of slowing down, sitting in silence and solitude is not a sacrifice or uncomfortable. It is experienced as it is – a pause pregnant with possibilities. Reflection and “be-ing” are the best states to be in for Mercury Retrograde. Cultivating this as a natural part of life makes this part of the retrograde a warm welcome.
Close off the Past
They say when one door closes, another opens. That also means stepping fully into the present (and then the future) requires closing the past completely. Finish off old projects. Fulfill promises. Disconnect energies. It’s time for completions, not initiations. Interestingly, people from the past may pop up. Maybe even lost items. Keep your eyes open!
Caroline Myss teaches “biography becomes your biology.” By this she means that all the experiences that make up our life – our entire history – are lived out in our biological health and eco-spirituality. We can only fully live our own life, on our own terms, when we continue to deactivate and neutralize past patterns and physiological responses to every “line and verse” from the past.
Mercury Retrograde is an opportunity to stop moving forward so that we can move “backward” to re-do, review, reflect, and release. Speaking of good habits – be sure to back up your data, read communications mindfully, double-check travel plans…good habits that are more important now.
When we have a deliberate practice of these three habits, we take off more layers of “dust and grime” (as Mary Burmeister (Jin Shin Jyutsu) calls it), revealing the true self. It makes walking through challenging experiences and demanding times more of an opportunity to grow our relationships and enhance different spheres of our life.
Each Mercury Retrograde, with its own special flavours, presents us with the gift of pause, even if externally imposed in the beginning. At this time, Mercury feels more like the stern teacher in Saturn. The messages for us are nonetheless there, for us to receive. Don’t shoot the messenger!