Your laptop crashes, your iPhone smashes, and you haven't received an email in a week. Someone says Mercury is in retrograde. That explains everything.
These days even the most casual horoscope fan fears signing contracts, taking trips, or getting married when the planet of communication seems to be going backward—like it is right now, from August 30 to September 22. But astrologer Leslie McGuirk says Mercury in retrograde can actually be a good thing.
"It's true that things can get a little funky," she says. "But it's usually never anything that serious. It's just the Universe's way to slow us down. If it didn't [happen], it's like always being in fifth gear, full speed ahead. So when Mercury is in retrograde, it's like putting your car into reverse. People say, Oh my God that's so bad. I want to move forward. I don't want to go in reverse. But if you're in your garage, you don't want to go forward. You want to go in reverse. Thank God for reverse or you'd never get out of the garage."
McGuirk is such a firm believer in her theory she has written a new book about it—The Power of Mercury: Understanding Mercury Retrograde and Unlocking the Astrological Secrets of Communication. Here, while we're in the middle of another Mercury retrograde season, McGuirk gives us five reasons why we should calm down and enjoy the ride.
1. This could be your time to shine.
Most people know their Sun sign, the zodiac position the sun was in when they were born—for example, Capricorn, Aries, Cancer. But how many know what their Mercury sign is (where that planet was in the constellation), and whether it was going direct or in reverse, at their time of birth?
You could be a Pisces, for example, with your Mercury in Aquarius, which was in retrograde at the time. So your Sun sign (in this case, Pisces) doesn't give the whole picture.
You can figure your Mercury sign out here. For McGuirk, knowing the difference is key, because it illustrates your communication style and how you relate to others.
"It's like saying that you're a Mercedes," she says. "But we don't know if you're a convertible or a station wagon. A two-door convertible Mercedes is really different from a Mercedes station wagon."
Knowing whether Mercury was going direct or in reverse when you were born is also important. (McGuirk has a chart to help readers figure that out in her book.) If you were born when the planet was going backwards, the handful of weeks when Mercury is retrograde is your time to push ahead and don't hold back.
"It's good because this is our time to make hay while the sun shines," she says. "This is the time to go forward."
2. You could learn a lot about yourself.
Sure, when Mercury is in reverse, not everything is going to be smooth sailing, McGuirk admits. Glitches may happen but she says that we should use this period to learn how to go with the flow and deal with situations as they arise.
"If your toaster or refrigerator break, for example, don't flip out and don't say, Oh God, this is awful," she suggests. "Machines have issues and things get a little funky. It's just part of the energy field and we want to work with the energy field in a good way and not make it a negative."
McGuirk says those moments teach us how to be flexible and work within any situation. She says: "If you're willing, it's the best time to learn that lesson. It will feel good and hopefully you carry it through after Mercury goes direct."
3. It could be a sign to work on your mindfulness.
Try signing out of social media and giving your iPhone a break.
McGuirk says: "Mercury retrograde is giving us a much needed dose of [mindfulness] in this very hyperactive world where we're all going a million miles an hour.
"If we fight and try to push during these times when we're supposed to go much slower, then Mercury retrograde could get squirrely and uncomfortable, because you're not going with the energy field of the planet, what's happening right now."
It's also the perfect time to try meditation.
What would happen if, rather than getting anxious because your phone broke down, you took a deep breath? She says: "If people can just sit still for five minutes and watch their breath, that's enough. If everybody did that collectively, the energy of this Mercury retrograde stuff would start feeling more peaceful."
4. It could be the perfect time to reignite an old relationship.
Sometimes when Mercury goes retrograde people from your past resurface. And that may be a good thing.
"Going backwards is not always a bad thing," she says. Take an old flame reappearing in your life, for example. "With revisiting an old boyfriend, maybe by him popping up, you're going to look back and say, Wow, thank God he showed up because I now know I really don't want to be with him and look how much I've grown," McGuirk says. "Or, he shows up and you think, That was really magical. We need to reconnect again. It doesn't have to be a negative thing."
5. It teaches you to be prepared for whatever life throws at you.
McGuirk was born when Mercury was in reverse, so, technically, the opposite scenario applies; she should be extra cautious about signing contracts and double-checking travel plans when Mercury is going direct (so, the majority of the year).
She says: "I cannot afford to get all wigged out about it, because it would mean my life is a mess all the time and I don't want to live that way."
Instead, as an astrologer, McGuirk likens herself to a meteorologist. If the weatherman says it might rain tomorrow, it doesn't mean you shouldn't go outside. It just means it would be wise to take an umbrella. In other words, be prepared.
She says: "I am really equipped for whatever life gives me because I was born with Mercury retrograde."
So, take it from someone who knows. During those weeks when the planet of communication seems to be doing a backwards tap dance across the sky, don't worry. McGuirk says: "It doesn't mean you can't live your life. It just means you're supposed to be cautious." And what's bad about that?
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