Just Turned 50 and Feeling Super Sexy!
As I turned 50 on Sunday, I have been reflecting on how grateful I am that, as a post-menopausal woman, I have been feeling more balanced — mentally, spiritually and physically — than I ever have in my whole life. Part of the physical balance has even meant feeling super sexy, a feeling that largely eluded me since my husband fell ill in 2013. Yoga as a way of life (which for me is branded as Iyengar Yoga and Transcendental Meditation) has made me much more in sync with my body mind and much more apt to have regular sleep, healthy eating habits and my personal practice is a non-negotiable these days. And finally, to enjoy this time in my life, I have had to make the space to feel the opposite of joy: there has been no way around processing the grief; I must do it if am ever going to enter into another conscious relationship and my heart is finally opening up to that.
Generalisation and fear abound when it comes to the menopause. What first springs to mind when you hear the word? Hot flashes, mood swings, insomnia, weight gain, why would anyone look forward it?! Articles about how difficult it is abound. Consequently, it is often a hush, hush subject discussed among women of a certain age rather than a natural transition openly and widely discussed and understood by all of us. Those of us who have experienced a largely symptomless menopause need to speak up about how it can be done or women will only look toward this transition with dread instead of a looking forward to this time in our lives in which we can enjoy ourselves more than ever.
After losing my beloved husband in April 2014 when we were both only 45, shock and trauma ramped up my peri-menopause. He had been sick with a grim prognosis for 10 months before his departure, so I had been processing a lot of grief by the time he left his body. My mother reminds me that the first thing I said to her after his departure was, “I wish that I could shave my head and go live in an ashram.” I have a daughter and house-holder responsibilities, so my reclusive impulse was not viable. Soon after my husband left, another man appeared in my life who broke my fall, he was my ashram, appearing when I needed him and I would not be in the same place today had it not been for him. After 4 months of us being best friends, we entered what ended up being a two and a half year relationship, which was a huge part of my healing process. My yoga practice deepened, as I learned Transcendental Meditation. Energy began to shift and I regularly felt stress leaving my body (I still do)!
This man recommended that I go to see Ayurvedic practitioner, Dr Don Brennan, who gave me lots of sound advice about meditating, eating and sleeping regularly. A regular daily meditation practice had already taken hold and was allowing me to feel much more in sync with nature and aware of my tendency to overdo. ‘Dr Don’ also referred me to Nancy Lonsdorf’s book, Ageless Woman, which reiterated the messages about regularity of meals, sleep and meditation. I was done menstruating by 47 and I have not experienced any symptoms since. Menopause was another major life transition that, fortunately, thanks to the guidance I received at the right time and my willingness to change my habits, was a process that I barely noticed!
As that new relationship had come into my life so soon after my late husband’s departure, when the romantic aspect of it came to an end in March 2017, I made a commitment to be by myself and love myself for a full year and truly feel the loneliness and the freedom of being on my own. Although I did manage to meet that commitment to myself, the truth is that I slipped back into working too much, probably subconsciously to fill the void. My default is to overdo, so in came lots of work (some of which I did not even enjoy)! When I let go of more work, I finally allowed myself to feel the deep loneliness, experiencing three excruciating months (April-June) of this year around my late husband’s birth and departure dates (21 & 22 April respectively) and then came our wedding anniversary (19 June).
The processing of grief has been a must, as I know that I grow the most when I am in a partnership: for me, being in a relationship is like having a mirror smack right up in my face. I see the worst of myself and I have plenty of material for growth! So, to open myself up to the idea of ‘dating,’ something with which I have very little experience, I first had to move through that mucky bog of feelings and accept that feeling my feelings must become a lifetime practice — there is so much information in them about what is right for me and what is not! I knew I’d done adequate work and plucked up the courage to join online dating sites for the first time ever. I have felt very little chemistry with the men from the sites and I have not enjoyed the process. I have met many married couples who have met their spouses on these sites who say that I must persevere, so maybe I will go back at some stage. For now, I feel that I have to follow the joy, so I have come off the sites and my aim is to make more space in my life for fun — maybe I will go dancing more!
One of the blockers of finding the right man for me has been an over-identification with being a widow and a spiritual teacher. In some circles, people might say that I have been too in my ‘upper chakras’ and not grounded enough. A wise woman friend of mine once said to me, “you do not want to live in your lower chakras, but you definitely want to invite them to the party!” I have tended to be drawn to men who, like me, are more focused on themselves and their own personal development than on evolving spiritually through a conscious relationship. However, I do feel more in my body now. I am shedding weight, not gaining it. I am feeling more sex drive, not less. And, a few weeks ago, I went on a couple of dates with a guy who I had met through mutual friends a few years back and we had vaguely kept in touch. We met up a couple of times and there was a strong attraction both ways. I did enjoy my time with him and do owe him great thanks, as part of my feeling super sexy recently is down to the desire that we feel for each other. It has been so good for me to wake up again that way, even if the conditions for a conscious relationship are not there now.
People often ask me what the benefits are of being on the yogic path. Whilst there are lots of benefits, the most important one for me has been that my yoga practice (I include all eight limbs of yoga here and, again, for me, this means the practice of Iyengar Yoga & Transcendental Meditation, which both have Vedic roots) cultivates a strong body-mind awareness. Underneath any emotion that is appearing in the moment (e.g., it may be fear, joy, anger, sadness), I now know that this underlying contentedness is always there and I will be okay no matter what. In the past when strong feelings would arise, there would to be craving for some external satisfaction so I did not have to feel anything. Most recently this craving would usually manifest as a drive toward ego-driven goals — my own ‘success.’ All my striving led to exhaustion; although, I rarely felt exhausted until I was completely overcome by it. As I kept going, adrenaline would kick in to keep me on my toes. I was sleep deprived and addicted to constant activity. I now know that I was in danger of burning out my adrenals. On the rare occasion I stopped, usually to meditate, I would feel the exhaustion, so I mostly kept going! Now I know that if I am tired and I keep going, adrenaline is required. Iyengar Yoga and Transcendental Meditation allow me to retreat from this constant ‘doing’ at least twice a day and tap into my ‘being!’ They bring my body-mind back into balance or homeostasis and I believe that this daily practice is what has kept the post-menopausal symptoms at bay and has allowed me to feel so great.
Even when I am feeling the worst stuff — grief — depressive mood — loneliness — I am grateful that I have the courage to feel these feelings — not resist them — and stay on the yogic path. Each day, I have a choice not to fill up every moment with activity to avoid my feelings. For many years, up until my mid-30s, when I drank, smoked dope, over-worked and over-exercised, I scarcely knew any feelings other than anxiety and giddiness. Now, I feel better: I feel sadness better, I feel happiness better. I feel every feeling better! If I want to feel balanced and experience a symptomless post-menopause (and feeling super sexy is a byproduct of that), I must get in sync with nature. So, the way out (of my compulsive doing and imbalance) is the way in (to my being, which brings balance)!