This morning I checked my email and received a newsletter from a publication specializing in astrological calendars and learned that today started Mercury Retrograde. The idea is similar to a full moon, a time when things happen sort of go out of whack, unexplained. I have heard my hippie sisters talk about Mercury Retrograde before and I thought it was one of their hippie-dippie things that isn’t actually real.

What? When the planet Mercury slows down it appears to stop and move backward (retrograde), between three and four times a year. It is an optical illusion because there is actual forward movement…Like speeding past a slow-moving train, as it proceeds it appears to be traveling backwards. Mercury is considered the messenger, so legend has it that during this time of retrograde communication gets lost:  technical snafus, logistical oddities, and accidents happen when in a hurry are common.

Time-Out: Mercury serves as a “time-out” during life. This time is a chance to catch up with ourselves and reflect. Things or people from the past can show up in a different form. I like this description: People, ideas or buried insights that are keys to moving forward, float to the surface. Often it’s felt as a slowed down, contemplative time, and depending on the sign, a chance to go over old ground again, to claim what you missed the first time.

Repetition: Sometimes Mercury Retrograde is a time for review, especially for underlying patterns in relationships. Sometimes we let go of issues or things that push our buttons or that don’t seem right, but we let them slide. What seemed not worth the trouble or hassle might be an actual issue that needs attention.

New Beginnings: Dreams and goals can get lost in the hustle and bustle of daily life. This time for review plays a part in reflecting on deep longings. It is a time to ponder on your soul, spirit’s calling, and  listen to your inner teacher. Perhaps this reflection might inspire you to change your destiny or solidify your personal story.

The Sign: Mercury Retrograde is shaped by the sign that it is cast in. This retrograde is in Aries, March 12th – April 4th. The following description from We’Moon authors are my favorite:

Mercury, planetary muse and mentor of our mental and communicative lives, appears to reverse its course three or four times a year. We may benefit from less stress when it retrogrades by making allowances for a symbolic “sleep cycle.” These periods give us permission to pause and go back over familiar territory, reflecting and giving second thoughts to dropped projects or miscommunications. Breakdowns can help us attend to the safety of mechanical and mobility modes. It’s time to “recall the now” of the past and pay attention to underlying issues. Leave matters that lock in future commitments until Mercury goes direct. -Sandra Pastorius

Mercury retrograde may slow down our progress, confuse communications, but also gives us a chance to go back and repair, redress and recuperate. People from the past and projects of the past are back in our orbit and need to be dealt with. Pay attention to opportunities that arise in the present but have roots in the past, old contacts, proposals sent out a long time ago, ideas that were shelved once and brought back now, and make the most of it. Take any opportunity to clean up a past karmic mess. -Heather Robbins

Whether or not you believe in the oddity of full moons or the changes in Mercury Retrograde, time for reflection is helpful for balancing, reorganizing, and making space for new opportunity. Perhaps drive a little slower, refrain from making any huge decisions, and be prepared for something to break. In time of reflection it is help to find alone time, journal, listen to your favorite music of the past, look through old photos or letters, and of course, practice yoga.

For those of you Aries, in light of the Mercury Retrograde in Aries, below are excerpts for the year at a glance for Aries (March 19-April 19):

Your invigorating courage startles us all into asking “Why not?” We need you to ignite and inspire us. Give yourself elbow-room to explore without having to stick with anything forever. Keep things simple this year; beware of extravagant indulgences that leave you later indebted. You need to be able to do as much as you can without outside interference for the next couple of years. Your ability to instantly respond to challenges brings out the leader in Aries-born during 2012. Stormy weather just elicits a feisty genius in you. You are one-of-a-kind, a self-directed, trend-setting pioneer in a world ready to be new.