What to Love About Mercury Retrograde

Let me ask you…do you get a little stressed when your business or professional growth seems to slow down? If you are like most of us, a business slowdown engenders panic. We have, as business astrologer Madeline Gerwick describes it, a “nearly religious belief” in constant progress, in “always accomplishing something…in pushing forward at all costs.” And to top it off, she says “even though we’ve never experienced a year without challenges, delays or setbacks, there’s an unspoken belief that we shouldn’t encounter any obstacles or delays if we’re competent.

It’s silly, really, when you think about it. Can you name a natural cycle that provides “all growth, all the time?” I can’t. It may seem counter-intuitive…(but only because our intuitive ways of knowing have become distanced from the natural rhythms of life around us)…growth requires periods of slowing down, stopping, turning inward, rethinking, resting. And, the very cool thing is that, if we are paying attention, the planets help us to do this through their retrograde cycles. Astrologically, retrograde planets invite us to slow down, to pause, to retrace our steps, to look back, and to gather ourselves anew before stepping forward again. And, from November 25 through December 15, Mercury is retrograde in the big, bold sign of Sagittarius.

Mercury Rx Mercury Retrograde has gotten a bad rap, but it has a powerful purpose. Yes, it is true that travel and communication mishaps seem to occur more frequently when this little planet, aka “The Trickster” goes retro. (more about this in a minute…). But to really get the purpose and value of Mercury retrograde, we need to go a bit deeper than email snafus.

Astrologically, Mercury represents our thinking and perception and the Sun represents our vital life force, our impulse and capacity to be, and our urge to create. Mercury travels through the zodiac much like the Sun’s valued canine hiking companion…moving ahead, seeming to wander about, traveling back to connect with the Sun and then further back still to recheck something interesting, then dashing forward again past the Sun and on up the trail a ways, but never getting further than 28 degrees away, before stopping to look back and retrace its steps.

I find it truly fascinating (and a bit reassuring) that the natural order of the Universe has an inherent design in which the core essence of our mind/perception/communication cannot get too far out of alignment with (either getting ahead of or falling behind) the core of our life force before a regrouping is triggered. But we still get enough room to play.


In the Mercury cycle, we enjoy some forward thinking that stretches our existing frameworks in innovative ways and brings us toward the Unknown where we come in contact with new possibilities. Then we need to bring the seeds of those new ideas back to our present reality in order to try them out. We take a new look at past learning and see how to integrate new ideas, giving us the opportunity to form a mental framework with a solid foundation that provides avenues to bring the ideas into tangible form. Which then prompts the desire for new learning to help bring those ideas fully into the world. And, on again through the cycle. Mercury retrograde is an integral part of the creative process.

So why all the bad press? Mercury retrograde is rebooting our thinking process, reviewing and resetting our mental models in a specific way in specific areas of our lives. (As always, the exact impact of any astrological phenomenon in your life and business depends on its interaction with the energy map of your birth chart, which will show where Mercury’s retro-upgrade is happening for you). It is an important maintenance function that supports our growth, creativity, continued learning and ultimately our evolution along our development path. And, whenever you are involved in a major system upgrade and reboot, some non-essential tasks get a little wonky, sluggish, or just plain weird. If you keep trying to process at full speed, you will experience breakdowns, frustrations, and stress. Kind of makes sense, doesn’t it?

Just to be on the safe side, to minimize frustration: During Mercury retrograde, adopt a playful, patient attitude and plan in lots of extra time and space to manage any glitches that may come up. If you can, delay big purchases (especially electronics) until after Mercury turns direct. If you can’t, anticipate that there may be a need to re-do something related to the purchase. It is possible that more holiday gifts will be returned than usual this year since the bulk of the holiday shopping season happens while Mercury is retrograde. It’s ok. It’s not personal.

When working on computer, save your work frequently and don’t assume your email got where you wanted it to go when you sent it. In all communications, anticipate that you might be misunderstood, and your intentions misinterpreted. Allow room for this and, again, don’t take it personally.

There is no reason to suspend projects, cancel travel plans, or become a hermit, just be cautious about starting new contracts and new projects, and be compassionate in your interactions as there is the increased likelihood of communication missteps due to incomplete information, indecision, and communication slowdowns. It is just too easy to miss an important detail, or to misread something.

Mercury retrograde has been described by one astrologer as the Cosmic Trickster untying your shoelaces when you weren’t looking. Not a tragedy, but if you insist on running at your usual full speed, chances are pretty good you will trip or at least feel a bit clumsy. So bring along your sense of humor and … consider trading in those winged shoes for a pair of loafers, or fuzzy slippers.

Conventional astrological wisdom suggests that you focus on activities that start with “re:” rehash, review, rejuvenate, refine, reflect, repair, re-write, reconnect, etc. It is also a great time to tie up loose ends or reconnect with projects that were dropped during the last Mercury retrograde period (August 2011).

Here are the details for this cycle: On November 24th, Mercury stationed (appeared to stop) at 20 degrees Sagittarius. It will now appear to move backwards through Sagittarius until it reaches 3 degrees, where it again will  stop and turn direct on December 15. Mercury will then retrace its path, passing the place where it first turned around 20 degrees Sagittarius) as the new year begins on January 1, then continuing, with increasing speed, on its merry way until it passes the Sun again and begins the build up to the next cycle.

Using the retrograde cycle consciously. As Mercury moves backward in Sagittarius, you are being asked to review, rethink, re-envision your goals, purpose, direction, meaning, your place in humanity, and your concept of Truth, with a capital “T.” You are being invited to consider the role adventure plays in your life. You may reevaluate your assumptions about other cultures and belief systems. You have the opportunity to explore what freedom means to you and how it is showing up in your life. These are big, bold, passionate questions. And it is all too easy to slip into seeing your perspective as the “right” one, and announcing this to anyone who happens to be in earshot.

Mercury is naturally a bit awkward in the big picture energy of Sagittarius. Mercury in Sagittarius is on a quest to explore every little thing about every very big idea – convinced that each new bit of information is “the Answer” or “The Way” things should be. And when retrograde, Mercury’s command of the details is compromised. And lacking the details, Mercury’s not afraid to bluff its way through. Resulting in predictable upsets.

Work to blend Mercury’s healthy curiosity with Sagittarius’s bold exploration, by focusing on the exploration itself, rather than the destination. Be curious and non-judgmental. Resist, for now, the urge to form conclusions. Instead, deepen your reflection and notice how your perceptions shift and change. Look back over the past 3 months (since the last Mercury retrograde cycle). What has been the nature of your visions for the future? How open and receptive have you been to new ideas and contradictory thoughts that may shake up long held beliefs? Inventory your communications (both personal and in your business). Are you being dogmatic in any way? Are you convinced that your truth is the right truth? Look at your advertising & brand activities. Are you being bold enough? How do you show up in professional situations. As a “know-it-all” or a wise teacher? Do you let yourself dream new dreams? Have you gotten into a habit of thinking small? Are you avoiding any truths that are trying to get your attention? During the retrograde, dance with the questions.

Mercury retrograde gives us the opportunity to stop and really drink it all in. When given the space, this introspective focus helps us to review what we already know and think, and perhaps make new connections leading to newly useful conclusions. Shifting our perspective so a new picture can emerge. We can determine what is serving us that we want to deepen and enhance and what we want to change. We can begin to see what is needed to support new ways of thinking, and what new ways of thinking will support our big goals, providing the refreshed mental framework needed to bring out dreams into being.