Thursday, January 2, 2014

Stillness: Our Retrograde Winter 2014

© 2014 by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved

This winter’s sky has a number of retrogrades in process or in store for us. Winter itself is a “retrograde season.” It asks us to go indoors, inside ourselves, and to reconsider our direction, needs, and desires—and, indeed, our life overall. Are we hitting the mark on what we want and where we want to be headed? Winter starts with Capricorn. Cap sways to rhythm of Saturn, the planet that rules time itself. Winter forces us to face: the sand keeps running in our hourglass. All those questions about fulfillment are more poignant, indeed more urgent, when there’s more sand on the bottom than the top.

So what does it mean when retrogrades are piled one on top of another during a season with the same meaning as planets in retrograde? This is a cosmic hint of mammoth proportions, a predicted snowstorm of reverse and review activity, designed to send the wise person inside for shelter.

Now I understand why one of my fantasies is to be snowbound in a New England cabin during a stormy winter (with my beloved, my cat, a big fireplace and all the food and wood needed to be comfy). All my life I’ve been trying to survive in an extroverted world when I’m actually an introvert. I’ve touched on this topic in previous posts. Like any complementary pair, we’re a blend of light and dark, yin and yang—introvert and extrovert. This winter in particular asks us to explore our “innie,” whether or not it’s our normal modus operandi. Even if you’re on the fence like me—I’d say I’m 51% intro- to 49% extrovert—it’s important to honor both halves. It’s equally important to honor your 10% innie, even if you’re a 90% outie. Denying any part of ourselves can wreak havoc in our lives once the non-dominant side has had all it can take of being ignored.

To that end, I recommend a book called Quiet by Susan Cain. It’s all about the introvert/extrovert continuum, one I believe this winter begs us to explore—and to reap the benefits of our introverted side, whether it’s dominant or recessive. Susan Cain speaks to all the famous people who changed our lives because of their innie orientation, just as you can change yours by honoring this side of yourself. She coins the term ambivert for people like me—maybe you’re one, too—the switch-hitters in life who can go to bat with either side of themselves as the situation requires. The biggest thing the author does in this book is to reclaim the positive aspects of introversion and why they are not to be ignored (note from me--especially this winter). Bonus: The Kindle version is currently only $2.99.

This Winter’s Retrograde Reviews

Venus (21-Dec-13 to 31-Jan-14, range 28-13 Capricorn) For Venus, review love and money—partnerships. Also consider ambience, beauty—what surrounds and feeds your sense of splendor—and what brings you peace and balance. If you’re not getting what you need in any of these areas, time to readjust, reconsider and renovate. What do you value?

Mercury (6-Feb to 28-Feb-13, range 3 Pisces – 18 Aquarius) How you think, communicate, do business, and make short trips are key reconsiderations. This time is excellent for reviewing the books and finding mistakes, and probably a good time to do tax prep to figure out what receipts and data you might be missing while still having time to meet the US April 15 tax deadline. A perennial, even amusing question to ask yourself is, “What was I thinking?” That applies especially to dilemmas that seem to overwhelm you. You thought yourself into it; now’s the time to figure out how you can think yourself out of it.

Mars (1 Mar – 19 May, 2013, range 27-9 Libra) For Mars, we get to review how we do battle; harbor hurts, and generally “put ourselves out there.” Are we too “yang,” too wimpy—too touchy or too unforgiving? When we don’t forgive, we’re still keeping our sword sharpened for further injury to our perceived wrong-doers, often long after they have forgotten the incident(s) that still have us all fired up. The battles we do in our minds still affect others at an energetic level and, especially, ourselves. Although it’s not an “exclusive,” those who lick their wounds for way too long often have natal Mars in water signs, combining the strong feeling nature of Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces with the anger and wounding side of Mars. Water flows without end until it has a container. If you’re in need of containing long-flowing hurts, now’s the time for contemplating how. With Mars in the relationship sign, the emphasis is obvious.

Jupiter (6-Nov-13 to 6-Mar-14) To me, Jupiter Retrograde offers an opportunity to learn that you don’t always expand or experience prosperity or blessings by going after them. Sometimes, you just have to sit still and let them come to you. While you’re quiet, contemplate how far you go to get what you want and what it costs you. Are you miserly or too generous? Where is generosity to yourself in the equation, if you’ve got a Santa Claus nature? Where are you with your beliefs, spirituality and ongoing education? We live in Jupter-Sag-9th House World now where you cannot thrive without being willing to become a life-long learner. What don’t you know yet? What knowledge do you need acquire, and where do you already have a PhD? Release tying up your energy for applying it somewhere else you might have discovered needs attention during one of your other planetary reviews. With Jupiter in Cancer, how family, home and hearth "make you more" is also up for review.

I’m just focusing on the winter retrogrades. Come spring and summer 2014, there will be new ones: Pluto, Mercury (again), Neptune and Uranus. See Café Astrology for more dates and visuals. You’ll be better prepared, having honed how you “retro” over winter.

Inner Winter Practices

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could go into that winter cabin I dream about for as long as we want or need to regroup? I had a dream last night about two different, concurrent retreats, and it’s amusing in retrospect to see how I managed to alternate staying at the two different retreat sites, mixing and matching events and sleepovers, my Mercury in Libra in full command of a dilemma.

In waking life, we’re lucky to get one retreat, much less two—and the retreats we get are likely those mini-oases we create ourselves in the bombardment of modern busyness. But create them we must for our sanity and humanity.  Getting back in touch with the rhythms of nature is essential to our mental, spiritual and even physical health. This is what winter is for, and it’s no coincidence that one of the most beloved Christmas carols is Silent Night.

Ten Suggestions for a Retro Winter

Here are some practical suggestions on what we can do to unwind and regroup during Retro Times:

  1.  If you can afford it in time and money, book an actual retreat. Consider not avoiding winter weather, tempting as it might be. A cabin in the snowy mountains might be more conducive to inner time than a beachside resort where cocktails and schmoozing are a constant temptation. However, if you are like my dear introverted friend who has an extroverted husband and hates the cold, she can sit for hours in Hawaii just staring at the ocean.

  2. Commit at least an hour a day in winter to meditation, yoga and/or reading—more if you can make the time. End your day with at least a half-hour of silence, if possible.  

  3.  Sleep more to let your dreams and restorative resting state do its magnificent healing work.
  4. Read as much as possible, either “escape” literature or stuff that feeds your soul. (I’m planning on finally finishing Quiet, myself.) Funny novels are a form of re-creation, and spiritual literature can inspire you during this time of contemplation. Reassessment does not preclude laughing—especially at yourself and your human foibles. Nothing is more healing. Some may be fed by astrology books; others may be fed by giving them a rest because of they are often highly mental and abstract, not conducive to winter “letting.”
  5. Tell people your plans for R&R so they don’t expect your normal level of activity or communication. Most people will give you your space, as long as they understand what’s going on—and they’re reassured there’s nothing wrong between you.
  6. Review any journals you keep and start one for 2014. If you have been too busy to journal, as I’ve been this year for the most part, review your email conversations with your intimates for The Year That Was. You’ll be amazed at what this practice reveals about where you’ve been and where you want to head next. It’s so important, at least once a year, to view your life from a bigger perspective than day-to-day living and coping.
  7. Change what you drink. Avoid alcohol, coffee and other stimulants in favor of herbal tea and decaf green tea. I thank Mma Ramotswe, the No. 1 Lady Detective in the Alexander McCall Smith series, for turning me onto Bush tea from Southern Africa. We know it here as red Rooibos tea. I like Celestial Seasoning’s Madagascar Vanilla Red, one of three rooibos teas they carry, but there are many others excellent brands. Another standby, made for this time of year, is Tension Tamer, also by Celestial Seasonings.

  8.  Change what you eat. Eat seasonally for winter. Instead of focusing on a “diet” after the holiday overdo, listen to your body and its needs. Eat lots of nourishing foods like lentils, soups and stews that are warm and comforting for winter. Tune into when you’re full and what your body craves. See recipe below for one of my winter faves, an immune-boosting herbal chicken soup.
  9. Spend time in quiet places like nature,  churches, cathedrals or synagogues, particularly when you can simply “be” in the silence. These holy places--nature as much as any other-- have absorbed the breadth of life. In the case of religious buildings, they are infused with prayer and ritual vibrations from years of spiritual activity. They have an aura of peace and love. Light a candle, if appropriate. Say a prayer for insight.

  10.  Set aside at least part of each day as a No Plan Zone. During this hour, or whatever time you can spare or designate, do whatever you feel like—what draws you. This following of your instincts will lead you to any reassessments and reconsiderations you need, because you are creating the space to let what’s important to you bubble up from your subconscious.

Winter Immune Soup Recipe

Used for winter cold and flu prevention or shortening, if you get a winter bug.

  •  Organic chicken, skinned (ask butcher to skin it for you)
  •   Astragalus root herb, 2-3 sticks
  •   Codonopsis root herb, 2-3 sticks*
  •  Wakame  or other seaweed (for natural salt taste with less sodium), 3-4 pieces broken up
  •   Other seasonings to taste
  •   Root veggies, such as: burdock root, turnips, carrots, parsnips, potatoes or yams


  • Stew chicken with seaweed and herbs in water 3-4 hours in large pot or overnight in crockpot to create a broth
  •  Remove bones (Use whole chickens, not deboned.  The marrow from the chicken bones is one of the immune-boosting ingredients in this soup.)
  •  Add other seasonings and veggies.
  •  Stew 1 hour or more to desired tenderness of vegetables.

* I have found codonopsis root difficult to find in the Sacramento Area. The soup is still immune-boosting without it. I have also successfully replaced it with Echinacea in a tea infuser, but if you try it, be careful not to use too much (2 Tbsp. max) or steep it too long, as it adds a more bitter taste.

I got this recipe from Judy Fuller, a dear friend of decades and an amazing yoga teacher, bodyworker, herbalist and healer.

Herbal HerbDisclaimer: This article does not mean to imply any recommendation or certification of any products or herbs mentioned. It is provided purely for informational purposes. Please make your own determination about the quality and effectiveness of herbal remedies, especially when considering them for very young children. This article is not meant to constitute advice, nor is it meant to replace medical treatment.


Photo Credits: Winter cabin - © ivan kmit -; Chicken soup - © bit24 -; Epiphany - © trucobelami -

January 6
Happy Epiphany
The Coming of the Three Astrologers


horoscope said...

Hi there,
I wonder if you can answer my question. Can I take my astrology readings and create the life I desire or is the future pre ordained?
Is the future set in stone or can we really create anything we want?
Thanks if you can answer this question

Joyce Mason said...

Dear Horoscope,

Thanks for asking this perennial question. Astrologers like to say, “The stars impel; they don’t compel.” In other words, a natal horoscope shows potentials but how we express them is up to us. Sames goes for transits and how the stars affect us at present. Shakespeare addressed this idea, too. He said, “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”

This answer can perhaps be seen as too “pat” and overly simplistic without some context. Navigating life is a challenge and learning to live it from your highest self while overcoming tendencies that might not produce great results for happiness is an ongoing learning curve. Sometimes it takes hard work, but for the individual who wants to become all he or she is in “seed form,” the results are well worth it. The ultimate job and joy on earth for each of us is to be the best Us we can be.

My 3-part High Signs article series may give you some ideas on how to do that from an astrological perspective. (Put High Signs in Search box.)

Hope this helps,

PS – Sorry for the long time responding. I’ve been sick and am happy to be back.

Anne Whitaker said...

Hi Joyce

thanks so much for this reflective, meditative and wise post. It will be interesting to see what emerges from our lives this summer, after the cosmos giving us such a strong message to slow down and turn inward....

Joyce Mason said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Anne. I've been thinking much the same thing. It's as though the universe is reminding us of the great metaphysical principle, all answers lie within--and is sending us there to find out what we need to know to navigate these interesting times. I agree about summer!