Trapped somewhere deep inside my solar plexus, midway between my navel and ribs, waits my inner child. I know this because a wise healer friend of mine recently helped me locate him. It's almost laughable, that hokey new-age psychological metaphor of the "inner child," who represents a piece of ourselves that got shut down in our youth and lives unfulfilled somewhere in our minds, bodies or souls. And yet, there mine is, standing quiet and motionless, looking downright cute and moppet-like if I do say so myself, with a blonde bowl-cut and big guileless blue eyes. He is waiting for his next cue from someone so that he will know what feats of excellence to perform. He is such a good boy. He likes to please others. He hardly even knows what he would do, if he weren't bound by duty to entertain, charm, study, ace or win. And, anyway, that takes up most of his time.

I'm introducing you to my inner child because, last week, he was really acting up. The poor kid was really being hard on himself, feeling as if, yet again, he hadn't lived up to certain expectations in certain details of his life. All these details, their flaws and imperfections, were exposed around the New Moon in Virgo, the sign that strives so ardently for perfection and expects it of others. I spent last week's space glibly characterizing Virgos by magnifying their quirks, using their own descriptions and my own—all the while knowing that this microscopic focus could, and would, also be turned back on myself. It, of course, was. With Virgo in full effect, last week marked back-to-school, back-to-business time. I wouldn't let my inner child come out to play until he cleaned his room, and not just by shoving everything under the bed either.

Though the New Moon has since passed, Virgo continues to make a strong impact on our lives as the Sun and Mars both continue moving through. This two-week period—from last week's New Moon through the harsh Saturn-influenced Full Moon on the morning of Sept. 21—is one in which we must finish getting things in order, or else we risk being zapped by the toxic waste we leave to fester. And with Pluto's continued pressure, there is nowhere to hide those aspects that need to go. In fact, it wouldn't be a bad idea to literally burn representations of things you want out of your life (i.e., small effigies, bounced checks, handwritten lists of unfavorable character traits), so that all traces are gone and fresh life can sprout from the ashes. That's what I'm doing with my inner child's training wheels. He's ready to ride his bike for real. If he scrapes his knee, so be it; it'll heal.

There is another astrological reason why focusing inward now might prove to be your wisest move. That, my friends, is Mercury turning retrograde again, starting on Sept. 14 and continuing through Oct. 6. As I wrote last time this happened, when Mercury "moves backward" across the sky, we're likely to experience confusion in areas related to communication, transportation and business agreements. Electronics equipment could malfunction, deliveries might be late or misdirected, and the taxi may never show up .This time around, Mercury changes direction in Libra, a sign concerned with weighing both sides of an issue and striving for peace in relationships. Watch for crossed signals in what you say to others.

(1) You may get so wrapped up in trying to be fair to everyone else that you lose sight of what you believe and commit to something you'll regret later, or (2) you may think you're engaged in calming negotiations while the other party is quietly growing frustrated. Don't act on behalf of others while you're still figuring yourself out. Though they aren't the best times to cement deals, Merc-retro periods are very helpful for reviewing and revising plans. And since Mercury will briefly pop back into its ruling Virgo from Oct. 2-10, you might want to hang back for a few weeks and reread the fine print after Oct. 6.

Finally, in an example of astrological synchronicity, the Jupiter-Neptune opposition I've recently been going on about reaches its first exact peak on the morning of Sept. 11. As we commemorate the events of last year, the cosmic energy provides an opportunity for us to collectively expand our compassion and spiritual awareness. In order to heal, we must move from anger and denial into forgiveness and acceptance—just as our inner child should be allowed to mess up, become humbled and learn from his mistakes. All of us reached this moment due to a series of events that cannot be altered; they are now firmly set in the past. But we must grow our individual selves large enough to synthesize our experiences and act in new expressive ways that reflect how we choose to take responsibility for shaping the future.

I've decided to treat my inner child to dance lessons. Now, when I visualize him hanging out inside my solar plexus, he is jigging and jiving and twirling around in circles. Sure, he looks a little weird. He's no professional. People might be chuckling at him. But I'm gradually teaching him not to care. Dancing is more fun than anxiously waiting.