Updated: Feb 23, 2020
If you change the way you look at things
The things you look at change
When a planet moves retrograde, it appears to be moving back over territory it had has already traversed. It cues us to do the same. Living in western 21st century culture, productivity is a predominant value, spawning a lifestyle where we are encouraged to constantly move forward, make progress, and are rewarded for achievement. Yet in the cycles of life, we see ebbs and flows, summer and winter, day and night, activity and rest. Retrogrades herald periods of time that invite us to press the pause button on the neverending drive to make things happen, get things done and get on with it - and turn our attention to something else.
The Invitation of a Retrograde
During retrograde cycles our attention turns inward. We become more reflective. We embark on an journey that takes us beyond the world of dimension, as into the forest of myth. Schedules, timelines and the predictable road forward is discarded momentarily as we elect, willingly or not, to take the detour where we encounter an unknown landscape and destination. To the degree we welcome the unknown, is the degree we can revel in a given retrograde phase. It is a process of inner expansion with reduced focus on achievement in the world, but it what we discover can lead to shifts and expansion in our worldly efforts when the retrograde phase is over.
During retrograde cycles, we evaluate plans and contemplate what is missing in our lives. We have the space to tweak or adjust our approach so that when we move forward again, we are better aligned to have our endeavors be successful. We grant ourselves time to catch up with ourselves and bring our life current – whether it’s the letter that needs writing, the closet that wants to be cleaned out, or the repairs to the house that have been wanting to be done. We take time to journal, meditate, or take walks in the woods. We look to engaging in activities that create renewal, fresh perspective and a readiness to dive back into fray of what we want to achieve at the end of the retrograde cycle.
When Things Go Awry
Chances are we have all heard someone speak of retrogrades with trepidation, as though they are periods of time where we mischief is afoot and we can expect life to go off the rails and not as planned. This is possible to the extent that we ignore the invitation to take the detour offered. By pressing forward, identifying satisfaction with making things happen and moving plans forward on a designated timeline, we leave the door open for mischief.
When the computer stops working, the meeting is canceled, our car breaks down, or a flight is delayed, we are being given a gentle, or not so gentle, nudge. It is not that the universe is being unsupportive of our plans. It is more that we are being cued that something else is possible at this time that has nothing to do with making things happen (decisions, purchases, agreements, marketing...). There is the opportunity to get off the highway, slow down, and take the scenic route. It is about listening to what is wanting to happen and not what we have determined will happen. It cues us to be curious about what we do not yet know, rather than march staunchly forward with what we do know.
How Often Retrogrades Happen
Through the course of a year, it is more notable to have a window of time where there are no retrogrades. In essence, we are in a perpetual dance between contemplation and action, known and unknown, throughout the year.
That said, there is a big difference between the retrograde cycle of the slower moving outer planets and the faster moving planets that are closer to the Sun and Earth.
Using the analogy of a car traveling down the highway, Mercury is in the fast lane traveling over the speed limit. If we were sitting half asleep in the backseat of the Mercury car and experienced this car suddenly slowing down and launching into reverse, we would feel a jolt and perhaps a mild sense of alarm. We would open our eyes, sit up and wonder what the heck is going on.
In comparison, Pluto moves at a glacial pace. Continuing the same analogy, the Pluto car moves at a pace of a car idling (without the brake on) which is around 10 miles an hour. If we were half asleep in the back seat of the Pluto car and it were to slow to a stop and back up, we may not even notice. Yes, it has reversed direction, but it doesn’t produce the same kind of jolt or potential confusion as we re-orient to what is taking place.
The outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto) are each retrograde roughly half of the year. Energetically, we are familiar with the experience of these planets in retrograde. Their retrogrades are part of our annual rhythm. Because they are retrograde with familiarity and consistency, on a subconscious level we more readily adjust to their moments.
There are astrologers that find significance in these planets stationing retrograde or direct. My experience is that an outer planet retrograde is big deal for us as individuals when we have a planet in our natal chart that is within a degree of the outer planet stationing retrograde or direct. Then, the retrograde cycle is activating our own natal potential in a significant way. What I have seen is that the influence of the retrograde of an outer planet has less impact on the collective and is more apparent and influential when it interacts directly with the chart of a person, place, or country (ie, the Sibly chart of the United States).
So, if we take the outer planet retrogrades off the table when discussing what periods of the year we are looking at taking a step back from worldly activity, we are down to three planets: Mercury, Venus and Mars.
Mercury has 3 retrograde cycles annually
Roughly every 3 months we have a 3-week period of Mercury being retrograde. This means 9 weeks of every year Mercury is retrograde. Most of us don’t have the luxury of stopping the forward movement of our lives for 9 weeks of every year. So the question becomes more how to move in a good way with this.
Successful businesses build processes into each year where periods of time are dedicated to performance evaluations, an annual budget process, strategic planning and meetings to tweak implementation benchmarks. Just as successful businesses have built evaluation and review into the flow of a year, we can build the same kind of process into ours by being mindful of when Mercury is retrograde, which support activities that ensure future success by allocating time to sort, evaluate and do housecleaning. The activities often can not be quantified in terms of dollars made, but can be pointed to when expansion and growth happen as a result of the time taken.
A Venus or a Mars retrograde each has their own cycle, but they are not part of every year, so it is not part of our annual rhythm. It can be argued that because there is a rhythm to the Mercury Retrograde as something we can expect every 3 months for 3 weeks, and so we have a way of moving with it, consciously or subconsciously.
Venus and Mars are unique in their retrograde cycles because they occur less frequently. Referring back to the analogy of the car on the highway, a Venus car and a Mars car both move in the fast lane, and so their movement retrograde can feel like an unexpected jolt. In 2020, we will experience both a Venus and a Mars Retrograde.
Notable Retrogrades for 2020
To begin, all planets have been in forward motion the last several weeks, and with a preponderance of planets in cardinal and earth signs, January coming into February has been marked with dynamic action, taking initiative and a drive to get things done. And then on February 16, we encounter the first retrograde of the year.