A Free-Will Planet 

For the week of July 27-August 2, 2011.

The planets are dialing up a new frequency this week, and as the astral winds begin to shift, daily life takes on a new level of intensity. I know ... I can already hear that collective groan — "How could daily life possibly get any more intense than it already is?" This is a question we've been asking for several years now, and there is no reasonable answer other than "That's just the way it is." And we are just going to have to get used to it because life isn't going to get less intense anytime soon. That doesn't mean that the astrological news is only bad. Increased intensity can also translate into increased gratitude, joy, groundedness — it's simply a matter of how you choose to respond to your situation. This is, after all, a free-will planet, and as the intensity increases there will be plenty of opportunities to move out of habitual reactions and into conscious responses.

Several planetary configurations coalesce to create the new pattern. (1) Mercury is retrograde from August 2 through August 26. Those of you experienced in the Mercury Retrograde phenomenon already know the drill: Expect delays and detours, snags and snafus, and a thousand interruptions that turn the simplest tasks into Herculean challenges. Those of you new to Mercury Retrograde: Mercury symbolizes all things related to communication and travel, and when it appears to be moving backwards, lots of things here on Earth appear to move behind instead of ahead. All forms of mail become problematic, as do contracts, negotiations, papers, and applications. Travel also is adversely affected, which means no one goes anywhere quickly; a routine trip to the corner mini mall could take an hour or more. Mercury Retrograde is best spent reviewing and refining what's already in motion.

Unfortunately, because most of us aren't interested in combing through the details of the recent past, Mercury Retrograde phases are often times of increased frustration. The common reaction to Mercury's slo-mo rewind is to forge ahead anyway, but that need to overcome obstacles often only exacerbates the problem — especially with this retrograde, as the Uranus/Pluto square tightens its grip and turns tempers testy. On Wednesday, July 27, we get the first clear glimpse of the emotional depth of this influence, as the Moon conjuncts Mars in Gemini. Later in the day, as the Moon quickly moves into Cancer, squaring Uranus and opposing Jupiter, emotional bodies are likely to quiver with anxiety. This is a precursor to the next several weeks, when Mars moves into Cancer and forms the same difficult relationship to Uranus and Pluto. Because Cancer is always about issues of safety and security, raw emotions are apt to color personal and collective situations — it's not just the United States government that's dealing with the meaning of "enough." It seems the entire planet is grappling with the same issue: Is there enough? Am I enough? Will there be enough? And when, exactly, do we say, "enough is enough?"

If you know your Ascendant and/or your Moon Sign, read that, too.

ARIES Be willing to examine where and when you're comfortable taking risks, and then let that information help you to make wise decisions about what's possible and what isn't.

TAURUS It's all about understanding the power of words and applying that knowledge with purpose. Be clear about your intentions, including your long- and short-term goals, and then choose your words appropriately.

GEMINI Be prepared to repeat yourself as often as necessary in order to make your point. And don't worry about how long it takes to get it right — just stay confident about the eventual positive outcome.

CANCER Of course you're anxious about money (what else is new?), but worrying about your finances won't improve your bottom line. The best way to neutralize your concern is to contemplate the true meaning of abundance.

LEO It is impossible for you to dim your light right now, so rather than try to keep it under wraps, just let it shine, brilliantly. Just remember to encourage others to shine as brightly.

VIRGO Try not to let this retrograde review become a portal for a brain worm. Go over the details, but don't obsess on what could or should have been. Although this sounds counterintuitive, acceptance will accelerate your transformation.

LIBRA Interactions with friends, old as well as new, trigger the desire to integrate several seemingly separate aspects of your life. Even though some pieces won't fit perfectly, the overall picture is ultimately rewarding.

SCORPIO Go over the details, especially all those niggling bits that have to do with your career and your job. If you pay attention to every little thing, you'll acquire a much more accurate picture of what's going on.

SAGITTARIUS While spontaneous travel plans might run amok, those already put in motion are likely to go smoothly. So rather than worry about the "what ifs," simply enjoy the ride.

CAPRICORN Face your financial concerns directly and use this retrograde to figure out how to transform problem areas. There's nothing to worry about, but you need to be well versed in the details.

AQUARIUS The retrograde focuses on partnership, personal and professional, as well as past, present, and future associations. Focus on what matters most to you in relating to others, and then take your time through this process.

PISCES Get out your fine-toothed comb and cull through the details of what you have set in motion. This is not about looking for mistakes. The focus of this review is immersing yourself in the material so that you can own and appreciate the outcome.

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