Managing Mercury in Retrograde

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GPS for the Soul – The Huffington Post
Managing Mercury in Retrograde
From Oct. 21 to Nov. 11, 2013, the planet Mercury is in retrograde motion. That usually strikes fear in normally-rational individuals because someone told them that we were in “mercury retrograde,” and that somehow is negative.

Mercury is the planet governing communication, transportation and truth. When it is in “retrograde,” its movement appears to be streaming backward in the skies, and that backward intention affects all forms of communication, whether that be via computer or person to person. Just because there are more misunderstandings and bad judgment calls made during Mercury retrograde periods than any other time does not mean that Mercury is singularly responsible. I am beginning to suspect an uncomfortable pattern. By the very virtue of the Universal Law of Attraction, many people are actually encouraging the frustration experienced during this time, rather than working with the blessings and magic of it.

We don’t have negative planets; we have negative people who use the planets as a great excuse for negative thinking, and in some cases, even negative behavior. So let’s clear the decks and get a better understanding of this phenomena and how best to flow with it.

• Unless it involves something already in the works, avoid signing new contracts or any other important agreement papers while Mercury is retrograde.

• Back up your computer files regularly because Mercury wreaks havoc with any form of technology, whether that is a computer or a toaster oven.

• Avoid travel, and if you can’t, then give yourself a lot of extra time and confirm your itinerary several times and check all reservations.

• Be extra mindful of your words. Be clear and concise about what you are conveying and don’t take things to a personal level. Even the most innocent requests can take on total miscommunication.

Some suggested activities when Mercury is in retrograde: editing, revising, reviewing, research, relaxing, and regrouping. Also, cleaning out clutter, organizing and catching up on paperwork are highly favored during this time. Above all, remember that this is a magical time to reconnect with the past while revisiting abandoned projects and renewing old relationships. Have a magical retrograde!

Taking Away My Daughter’s Smile
My life contained everything I’d ever wished for — a loving husband, two beautiful children, a healthy mind and body, and a safe and comfortable home.

Given such desirable circumstances, one would have thought I’d wake up every morning feeling grateful, happy, and content.

But that was not the case.

I woke up feeling the same way I did when I went to bed the night before — unhappy, annoyed, and irritable.

Mentally, I could acknowledge my life’s abundant blessings, but I didn’t really see them or feel them because I was too focused on my life’s abundant distractions. Too many commitments. Too many screens. Too many self-induced pressures to be all and do all. Too many unachievable standards. Too many to-do’s and never enough time.

And when you’re overbooked, hurried, and clinging to the electronic device, there’s very little time to laugh, rest, play, and simply BE. And that’s when the smile on your face tends to disappear.

Although I managed to plaster on a smile in public, my face wore a frown in the privacy of my home. You see, when you are living a highly distracted life, nothing — not even the beautiful faces of your loving family — can bring you joy.

The truth hurts but the truth heals… and brings me closer to the parent and person I want to be.


My outward discontent seemed to peak when it was time to leave the house. My children, then ages 4 and 7, knew I got a little crazy when I was trying to get everyone ready and out the door. My older daughter tried to help any way she could. Of course, her attempts to help made it take longer and were never good enough. I didn’t try to hide my exasperation or annoyance.

I vividly remember getting in the car after one stressful departure. I glanced in the rearview mirror and saw my daughter picking her top lip nervously. As she pinched that tiny piece of fragile skin on her upper lip with wide eyes, I swear I could read her mind:

Mommy’s mad.

Mommy’s tired.

Mommy’s stressed.

But there was more. I could practically hear how a young child would interpret her mother’s unhappiness.

Mommy’s mad at me.

Mommy’s tired because of me.

Mommy’s stressed because of something I did.

My older daughter’s lip picking became the new routine when we got in the car to go anywhere. And much to my dismay, the habit slowly moved to other areas of her life. I attributed it to school worries, being shy, her daddy’s work travels, and sibling jealousy. I read everything I could about this harmful behavior while hoping it was just a phase that would soon pass. But the lip picking didn’t stop. At times, the tender skin on her upper lip would even bleed.

Around the time I felt we should seek medical attention for this problem, a light was shed on the issue — a light that was more like a beacon of truth from which I could not hide.

In an especially chaotic rush out the door to go on a family vacation, I sat in the passenger seat fuming. Mad because I didn’t have time to put the dishes in the dishwasher. Mad because we were late getting on the road. Mad because the garage door was acting up. I am talking trivial, insignificant, minor inconveniences here, but that was the state of a distracted woman who could no longer see the blessings, only the inconveniences, of her life.

And before we were about to pull out of the driveway, my husband looked at me as if someone he loved very much had died. In a barely audible whisper he said, “You’re never happy anymore.”

I wanted to defend.

I wanted to excuse.

I wanted to deny.

But I couldn’t.

Because I knew he was right.

Where had that happy woman gone? The one who smiled at people she passed on the street just because. The one whose friends often spoke of her positive outlook on life. The one who felt happy simply because she heard her favorite song or had a pack of strawberry Twizzlers in her purse. The one who could laugh off mistakes because mistakes happen, and they are certainly not the end of the world.

Where had she gone?

And that’s when I glanced to the backseat to see if my children had heard my husband’s words. Staring back at me was my daughter picking her lip with worry the size of a small boulder weighing down her small shoulders.

And that’s when an even more powerful question hit me.

Where had my happy little girl gone? The one who woke up with the most gorgeous bed head and good morning smile. The one who beamed at the words “sprinkler,” “cotton candy,” and “pet store.” The one who laughed so hard tears came to her eyes. The one who licked beaters with sheer pleasure and danced happily to any song with a beat.

Where had she gone?

I knew.

I knew.

While choosing to make my own blessed life miserable, I had funneled my unhappiness straight into my daughter’s once joyful heart and spirit. Her pain was a direct reflection of the expression I wore on my face.

This difficult truth was one of several powerful admissions that led to my Hands Free breakdown-breakthrough. I wasn’t sure how, but I was determined to bring a smile back to my daughter’s face; I knew I must bring it back to my own.

I began with one small step: looking for what was going right, instead of what was going wrong. I called it: Seeing the flowers instead of the weeds.

Yes, there was a messy room (weeds), but it was because my children had played quietly and cooperatively with each other (flowers).

Yes, her shoes were splattered with mud (weeds), but the joy on her face as she splashed in puddles was unforgettable (flowers).

Yes, she was out of bed again (weeds), but it was to give me one more goodnight kiss (flowers).

Yes, she had gotten out every pair of shorts she owned (weeds), but she’d dressed herself independently (flowers).

When I started looking for “flowers” instead of “weeds” in our daily life, the positives became more obvious, and I quickly gained a new perspective. I realized much of what aggravated me was trivial. Much of what was supposedly “ruined” were things that could be fixed or cleaned up. What mattered — that we were safe, healthy, and alive — were thoughts that began to overpower the negatives.

My eager-to-please, helpful older child looked different too. I saw her for who she was, not an annoyance or a bother, but a loving child with clever thoughts and ideas. For once, I could see all the things she was capable of doing — not perfectly, but good enough for today. The tightness in my face relaxed and the smiles came more easily for both of us.

And now here I am three years into my Hands Free journey. Like any normal human being, I have moments of frustration, sadness, anger, and overwhelm… but these feelings are temporary, they are no longer the norm. I don’t smile every minute of the day, but I smile a lot.

My older daughter is not so little anymore. One of her favorite activities is giving me a makeover. I sit crossed-legged in front of her and as she gently applies blush to my face, my daughter’s perfectly plump lip is in my direct line of vision.

She doesn’t remember picking her lip. That habit died soon after my new life perspective was born. But I won’t forget. In fact, I don’t want to forget the cost of distraction. It can pick your life apart until it bleeds you dry. And it can take the ones you love with you in the process.

But by letting go of the distractions that take your focus off what really matters, you begin to see clearly. You begin to see flowers instead of weeds.

By making it a daily practice to notice all that is good in your life, the joy in your heart has the tendency to overflow. And when it does, you are able to funnel that excess love and happiness straight into the hearts of those you most want to see smile.

rachel macy stafford

Rachel Macy Stafford’s book, Hands Free Mama: A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters! is scheduled for release January 2014 and is currently available for pre-order.

Also on HuffPost:

How These Inspiring Pairs Are Redefining The Term ‘Power Couple’
When we hear about “power couples,” our minds may leap to glamorous celebrities (Jay-Z and Beyonce), political pairings (Barack and Michelle Obama), or tech-world execs (Sheryl Sandberg and Dave Goldberg) — couples where both members have climbed the ladder of success, becoming rich and powerful and famous along the way.

But what about those who, after achieving so much as individuals, commit as a couple to looking outward, giving back, and sharing their success with others? These dynamic pairs are the ultimate power couples: supporting each other’s well-being and working together to create change.

Here are five inspiring pairs who truly redefine the term “power couple.”

Bill de Blasio and Chirlane McCray

chirlane mccray

New York City Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio and his wife of 19 years, writer and social activist Chirlaine McCray, could soon be the most powerful couple in New York City. The duo are partners in the fullest sense of the word: de Blasio schedules political meetings based on his wife’s prior commitments, according to the New York Times.

De Blasio recently told the Huffington Post about how he and McCray — who works on the de Blasio campaign — have created a “work-life continuum,” finding time for both their family and for the work that gives their lives meaning:

“Chirlaine and I look for every opportunity to do things together. I’m very positive that to preserve a family life, to preserve your center and your sanity, you have to protect the time… We have established some continuity that is not oppressive or undermining of our goals, but is sort of a ‘ride the wave’ attitude, remembering that my wife and I literally met in City Hall, remembering that she had a long history of social activism before I met her and vice versa. We had a sense of 1) a goal that we would be in some kind of social change work together — maybe not the same workplace, but that a larger commitment to social change would pervade our lives — and 2) we wanted a community dynamic and we wanted to live in a place that we considered a neighborhood. We wanted a home that our kids could bring their friends to. So we created some real ground rules in our life… part of it was throttling down ambition.”

Bill and Melinda Gates

melinda gates contraception

Melinda and Bill Gates have been married since 1994, and in that time they’ve created a tremendous amount of change together. Under their joint leadership, The Gates Foundation has given billions to helping individuals in need within the domains of global development, health and education.

“We knew that there were a lot of things we were embarking on together: helping each other in our work and aspirations, having a family,” Bill Gates told the New York Times for a recent profile. “And we knew that there’d likely be substantial wealth from the success of Microsoft and that we’d get to figure out how to give back.”

Melinda, who is usually tight-lipped about her personal life, opened up about the couple’s mission to create change together in the New York Times interview:

I quit Microsoft when our first daughter was born, in 1996. And so I was getting a bit more time to travel and to see things on the ground. I would come home and talk to [Bill] about hearing from these women in the villages and men in India. Bill was very interested. He’d go and pull reports to see whether what I was saying matched. And so we were learning together, and there was already this energy around, like, ‘What would be possible for a foundation? What difference does a vaccine make?’ And so we started taking meetings with scientists around vaccines and that really got us going.

Harry and Kay Leibowitz

harry leibowitz

Harry Leibowitz, 72, and wife Kay fell in love with both philanthropy and each other 14 years ago, and have built a strong relationship based on giving back ever since then. In 1996, Harry started a children’s advocacy nonprofit, World of Children Awards, and soon after he met Kay two years later, she joined him at the organization’s helm. Together, their work has touched the lives of more than 30 million children globally.

“I was there watching what he was doing for children, and I had tears in my eyes. That day, I fell in love with Harry and World of Children,” Kay told The Huffington Post of the day she fell for her now-husband and business partner. “That was 14 years ago and we’ve been on this mission together. It’s the best thing we do in our lives.”

Paul and Sonia Tudor Jones

paul tudor jones

Last year, Tudor Investments founder Paul Jones and his wife Sonia donated $12 million to establish the Contemplative Sciences Center at the University of Virginia. The exploration of contemplative and yogic practices is close to both of their hearts, and the couple has explored spirituality together for years. Now, their donation will help others to do the same.

“We both started practicing Ashtunga Yoga in 2000 and it changed our lives,” the couple said when they announced the gift. “Our hope is that every person that goes into the Contemplative Sciences Center can have the same great experience that my wife and I and our family and all our friends have had.”

John and Laura Arnold

john laura arnold

Billionaire hedge fund manager John Arnold and his wife, former corporate lawyer Laura Arnold, have made philanthropy a central part of their partnership. Still in their 30s, the couple has already donated over $900 million to charity through the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, making them number three on’s top 50 philanthropists. The foundation’s aim is to create lasting changes that will “maximize opportunities and minimize injustice in our society,” focusing on public education and pension systems.

“The earlier you get started, the more time you have to get it right,” Laura said in a video for the Bridgespan Group.

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