How do you view transits?
Imagine that someone gives you an electronic watch/palm pilot device that will be keeping your appointments & diary. In order to initialize this device you have to fill in the following data: what's happened to you in the last minute, the last hour, the last day, the last month, the last year, the last decade, the last century, and the last 2 centuries (these are analogous to some of the various time-units we use in transits - they are the Ascendant, the Moon, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus & Pluto, respectively). Once you've got the thing initialized, it takes off ticking away, beeping you with significant events - every few minutes, every few hours, etc. etc. - except that all the beeps sound the same! A nasty business.
The other image I like is: a clock with ten digits placed randomly on its circumference, with ten corresponding hands all whirring around at the above speeds. Ironic, isn't it, that astrology is about seeing patterns in our life, and the first thing it does is to demand that we learn to read its own patterns! So why bother? Because the patterns of the planets can be learned, and once we learn to see their cyclic rhythms in our lives, we'll have a tool for penetrating the irrational which need no longer be tied to the language or even data of astrology.
So one needs a rough and ready sense of which planetary cycle is applying to what sorts of rhythms in one's life. I find it helpful to study the full life of a well-known and familiar person first - because they're dead, so whatever their destiny "will be" it either happened or didn't - so no ducking out for saying "well that will be in your future," and because many of the themes of their life will have been highlighted by their biographer. I liked studying Jung's life, because he was an interesting man and so very well documented. The point is, don't try to juggle too many unknowns at once - and our own life is somewhat of an unknown, whereas the life of Jung - or Arthur Ashe, or William Perry, is known as much as a life can be known - so we're then only dealing with adding the astrological layer to it.
Finally here's some 'keywords' for cycles that may (or may not) be useful:
JUPITER = THE RHYTHM OF THE UNCONSCIOUS: It is in about the same place every year, and repeats about every 12 years. This cycle recurs 7 times in an normal life span (84 years plus); giving us the traditional measure: "Seven Ages of Man" - childhood, youth, adulthood, middle age, maturity, old age, and dotage. This influence has to do with how we look at family & instincts (money, sex, religion) as we pass through these ages - so the same event (a big expense) may repeat - but may cost $1.50 when you're 5 and $15 when you're 17 (the next Jupiter cycle) and $15,000 when you're 41 (2 Jupiter cycles later).
SATURN = TRUTH AND CONSEQUENCES: Saturn moves through a sign in 2 years, takes about 30 years to go around (x3 = one lifespan of 90 or so years). Look for self-created pickles & opinionated evaluations. For example at one time you buy a new car, which is a sound choice at the time. 2 years later you move, and now the thing won't fit in the new garage - pointing out that when you bought the car you weren't thinking about your plans to move as soon as you could. (When Saturn strikes, it is always possible to trace our current limitations back to our own blindness; when the outer planets bring about change, it is less likely that we could or should have anticipated the consequences of their activity.) Saturn keeps teaching us that life is a flow of opportunities and limitations, and if we get stuck on one or the other, we'll become flaky (opportunity) or cynical (limitations). The same holds when it comes from outside - for example, a person will praise us for detail work one time, and 7 years later, we'll be criticized for being too detailed and not seeing the overall picture. This is to show us that the same trait has positive and negative value, depending upon context and attitude.
URANUS = CHANGE OR EVOLUTION: Uranus takes about 8 years to go through a sign, and divides our lives into 21 year segments as it goes through its 84 year cycle. These mark the major epochs of a normal life; they set out our relationship to archetypal consciousness and perfection. From birth to 21 we are within the archetypal mind, and have little real awareness of its existence - our mother is only our Mother and neither woman, wife, worker, or soul; each new area of life (school, sex, work, travel) is wondrous and unlike anything we've done before. From 21 to 42 we are to accept the archetypal role which has been gradually crystallizing in the first 21 years, and seek to perfect it, to exploit it to our utmost ability and opportunity. Some of these roles are: homemaker, executive, healer, student, entrepreneur, artist, and spiritual seeker. Then comes the great mid-life crisis at 42 when the archetype threatens to leave us. From 42 to 63 we can either continue to live inside its exoskeleton with increasingly weaker personal development or we can set aside its charms, with increasingly less excitement and accomplishments. Then, in the final phase, from 64 through 84, we are either rewarded for our detachment - by becoming something of an archetype in our own right (like Johnny Cash); or we are consumed by it and become a stereotype (like Tom Jones). As Uranus activates each of our planets, it will precipitate archetypal, 'once-in-a-lifetime' events (duh: -- it only goes around once for us). Getting married, getting divorced, starting a career path, learning to meditate. How we approach the expected and unexpected major transitions is colored by our relationship to archetypal consciousness, and offers us the chance to become hysterical or evolve an impersonal point of view.
NEPTUNE = MYTH AND MYSTICISM: Neptune takes about 13 years to go through a sign (or 165 years for a full circuit), and thus is often interlaced with Jupiter's cycle. Neptune governs the gradual transformation of humankind through the gradual and non-linear refinement of society, religion, and the inter-weaving of different cultures. Because no one can live through a full Neptune cycle, each person affected by it has only a partial exposure to its meaning and purpose - both of which have little to do with the person and much to do with humankind. Consequently the impact on the individual is often inexplicable and even traumatic. Sometimes it can inspire a person to behave, believe or create far in advance of their peers - like Jules Verne; other times it can delude a person into meaningless by-ways or transient concerns that will be lost on the tides of time, and, worst of all, it can expose a person into atavistic behavior from a more primitive time in human history. Thus Neptune is hard to evaluate, as it can provide one individual with mystic exaltation or worldly foresight, while damning another to the sufferings and brutality seldom encountered by their peers. The best preparation for its influence is a strong link to other peoples and other times, a disciplined comprehension of mythology and culture, and a simple, silent communication with the Soul. It may also help to know one's family history going back a few generations - sometimes Neptune transits will bring old traumas from generations past to fruition (for good or for ill) within ones own life-experience. As the Lord of Dreams, Neptune is awe-ful and awful, magical and deluding, and above all, inexplicable.
PLUTO = REDUCTION TO THE AUTHENTI:. Pluto takes 248 years to go around the Sun and spends about 21 years in each sign. Where Neptune spans a time incomprehensible to individuals, Pluto does the same for nations, cultures, and technology. Seldom has the world stood still for two and half centuries: what is commonplace for one epoch (ox carts and vellum manuscripts) are virtually non-existent in another. Through Pluto each epoch is faced with the consequences of its own inventions: Marco Polo sails to China and returns with more than pasta; Columbus discovers the new world, which destroys several dynasties and creates the foundation for a new one. In individual lives, Pluto transits emphasize our own exposure to such historical forces - presenting us with the ills and opportunities unique to the technology of our age and region, for it is the shifting Leviathan of History. On a deeper level, Pluto represents the process of authentication: its activity removes any elements of a person's life unnecessary for their spiritual growth, and introduces circumstances which often have no other value. To one awake to the Great Work of the Soul, Pluto is never truly unkind; to the sleeper soul, there is no greater danger or trial. Absolute self-awareness, honesty, stillness of inner and outer being are the best preparations for an encounter with Pluto.