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“The atmosphere, the earth, the water and the water cycle – those things are good gifts. The ecosystems, the ecosphere, those are good gifts. We have to regard them as gifts because we couldn’t make them. We have to regard them as good gifts because we couldn’t live without them.” ~ Wendell Berry

The cycles of life — seasonal turnings, cradle to grave and back again, growth and senescence and sprouting seeds, the moon-ruled tides, “…the bright blessed day and the dark sacred night”* — are critically important not only to our emotional and mental health, but to the health of the Web of Life on the planet. So, of course, we tend to ignore them.

Life evolved in concert with Earth’s cycles and seasons, and defying those evolutionary adaptations has consequences for the health of entire ecosystems and the animals that depend on them — animals like us. A linear and time-oriented focus, impressed into us over many hundreds of years and intensifying since the Industrial Revolution, has given us a civilization that insists on constantly trying to compartmentalize our lives — sleep during these hours, work during these hours, eat breakfast, lunch and dinner in the morning, noon and evening, have your fun on the weekends. Our civilization is also based on an underlying mechanistic, straight line mentality that insists on constant “progress” and endless growth, much to the detriment of our planet’s cyclic systems. We are all strongly imprinted with these mindsets simply because we were born and grew up within them.

To study ecology is to study cycles — the cycles of water, atmospheric gases, carbon, soil nutrients, to name a few. To study astrology is to study cycles — the cycles of the planets, yes, but also the multiple cycles of human lives — being born and dying, sowing and reaping, learning and teaching, acting and resting. Cycles are how life functions, and when we attempt to trade the spirals of our biology for the straight-line, unsustainable lifestyle of industrial civilization, we diminish our lives and our souls’ expression. Honoring the cycles of Nature, the cycle of the seasons, and the larger tides and cycles of the ever-changing cosmos, brings us not only into greater mental and physical health, but also into a better relationship with the Earth and all of life.

Earth-religionists, not surprisingly, seem to be more aware of and in tune with the cycles of life than the majority of those who live in our computerized culture, and yet we still have to function — most of us, at least — in this linear, timeline-driven society. So it can be easy to fall into habits of driving ourselves forward when what we really need is to be resting and regrouping, cycling inward instead of outward, or running — while laughing madly — down some entirely unexpected path. Mercury’s cycle of retrogradation, which happens about three times a year, can help bring us back into balance with our own personal cycles of awareness and communication if we approach its retrograde periods with thoughtful consideration instead of fear and trembling.

You don’t have to be an astrologer to know when Mercury is about to go retrograde — blogs and social media are full of dire warnings to back up your computer and batten down the hatches. If your social media networks aren’t prone to this kind of Mercurial panic, you can simply consult an ephemeris or an astrological calendar. Go ahead and mark those times that Mercury is retrograde on your personal calendar, and with this advance notice, you can plan to use them strategically and with awareness to enhance your magical work and your spiritual growth. Sure, you’ll still want to double-check your communications and technology, and be flexible with your travel plans, but if you can carve out some time to break free of the consensus mindset and let yourself flow with Mercury’s cycles, your life will flow more easily as well.

Retrogrades are a great time to take the principles for which the planet stands, and turn them inward. For instance, Mercury rules communication, the mind, and the mental state, so its retrogrades are a great time to pay more attention to the communications — impulses and inner promptings — from your deep self. It’s a good time to take a chance, to be willing to change things up a bit. If you get in your car after work one day and find yourself entertaining a random thought to take a different route home, then do it. Or maybe you’ll decide to step away from the computer and follow the impulse to spend some time in the warm sun. Some impulses will just be reflexive responses to stimuli in your environment, but others will be promptings from your inner self or your spirit allies. When you pay attention to your own mind in this way you are learning the skill of listening to your soul, and the more you listen actively, the more clearly your soul will be able to speak with you.

Mercury retrograde periods also tend to be helpful for inner journey work, meditations or pathworkings, and spirit contact in general. Some people find them excellent for divination — if you are a diviner of one sort or another, pay attention to Mercury’s cycles and see if the retrograde cycle makes a difference for you, in either ease or accuracy of your divinations. Mercury also helps us learn discrimination, to find the signal in the noise. In a world that often overwhelms us with choices, it becomes important to be able to say, “I want this in my life, but not that”. During Mercury retrograde is a good time to investigate the assumptions, both conscious and unconscious, on which you base your choices. Are they based on fear, or on creative resonance?

Mercury also rules the nervous system, and the retrograde time can be used to help us rewire our habitual reactions by becoming more aware of them, and then working to shift them. For instance, if you want to quit smoking, a good first step is to pay attention to which times you habitually grab a cigarette, and then quit smoking only at those times. Simply breaking the pattern will make the final release of the habit easier. Other habitual reactions include things that are stress alarms. Does the sound of your phone ringing increase your heart rate? Do crowded places make you anxious? This is a good time to become aware of those physical responses and do something — meditation, breathing exercises, changing the ringtone on your phone — that will help mitigate stress.

Mercury retrograde is also a perfect time to work magically to weave new and productive routines and practices into your life, such as meditation and exercise. We can rest our nervous systems by stepping away from the computer and TV, and getting out in the natural world. Mentally, you might want to work on broadening your personal symbol library, meditating on symbols, and letting your mind expand into a more holistic understanding that does not exclude your reasoning mind, but is not limited by it, either. Wander down creative paths, find new insights, seek a vision, communicate in new ways.

Paying attention to the cycles of our lives allows us to rest, regenerate and align ourselves with the flow of embodied existence. Mercury retrograde is a cycle that we can welcome, not fear. Sure, there does tend to be some interference with the usual paths of communication, transportation and technology during these times, but I think you’ll find that if you are in tune with the cycle, those things will be less troublesome for you. Next time Mercury goes retrograde, try working with its energy more consciously, and see what happens.


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