by Cynthia Connop: In my youth, I had a natural radiance and embodied vitality…
I call it the ‘free radiance’ of young women. In my reproductive years I was in my feminine prime; strong, free, sexually alive. As I traversed fifty and beyond, the hormonal wheels slowed down and the fertility cycle eventually ended. I, and many female friends and clients, faced an emotional and physical challenge and an identity shake-up; a reshaping of how I see myself. I had to let go of old identities and embrace new, fresh perspectives.
As fertility declines the body changes, especially for women, and that affects our sexuality to different degrees. It is almost impossible to be prepared for that. Fortunately, these changes happen gradually and we have time to integrate and adjust. I found that the youth focus of our culture and the lack of dissemination of elders’ sacred wisdom can have a debilitating effect on sex, intimacy and love over fifty.
New Vigour and Creativity Emerges
I wanted to lean into my spiritual experiences, to the collective wisdom and also listen to my body so that I could embrace this transition as a sacred doorway to greater spirituality and fulfilment. As I climbed ‘over the hill’, I contemplated that I was entering the fertile ‘valley’ of tantric spirituality.
Over a few years, this change does settle down and a new vigour and creativity emerge. I was even relieved at being free of the hormonal ‘drama’, clearer about my own needs and boundaries and more powerful. Some women report having less interest in sex, for others, it is the opposite. Or the desire to have a different type of sex and intimacy.
Cultivate Your Spiritual Foundation – Know Thyself
That is when my lifelong habits and spiritual practices came to the fore. I was fortunate to have a background in personal growth and Tantra and while the menopause years were not easy, I knew and had practised for many years shining love through my body. To the best of my ability. My years studying the work of David Deida, sexuality author and teacher, taught me that our ability to be radiant love and deeply present are not dependant on any idea of perfection.
However, in the realms of love, sex and intimacy as doorways to the divine, we benefit from embodied daily practice when younger. I didn’t really understand that until later. Initially, I was attracted to this opening into the divine, and in my usual style, dived straight in. It has not always been an easy path to follow. Now I may not be as radiant or wrinkle-free as the younger me, but I can be wiser, kinder and sexier – more tantric in my approach to life and love.
As a woman with a predominantly feminine essence, the practice is to flow, breathe fully, open my body, let go and locate love. Whatever our gender, we all have both feminine and masculine aspects. For the masculine, the practice is to become more fully present, free and deeply aware, through the whole body.
I discovered that while men over fifty do not have the same decline in fertility as women, they do have a gradual decline of testosterone and can experience less sexual desire and ability. Together with the changes that women are having, this can affect sexuality, intimacy and relationships. Sexuality is fundamental to the sacred union of masculine and feminine, but over fifty years of age and beyond, it may not look like sex as we once knew it.
For men and women, there can be physical issues that might need medical support and guidance. There are treatments, hormones, creams and pills etc. to assist older people in maintaining a healthy and connected sex drive. And the good news is that ageing also pushes us into a natural flow of slower, more spiritual sexuality and deeper connection.
Psychologically, letting go of self-judgment is also challenging as our bodies can feel like they have ‘betrayed’ us. They haven’t, but they are naturally changing. However, our ability to slow down, breathe and be more fully in our bodies can actually increase with age. We are more likely to have the time and the inclination to ‘drop-in’, to let go.
The Tango – The Dance of Synchronicity
This general change in men brings them more in sync with women, who have long been available for prolonged foreplay and slower, more varied lovemaking. As we come off the sexual ‘peak’ we are able to explore more the heart connection and the sexual subtleties of the ‘valley’. The next stage of the tango can begin.
If we are able to take the performance pressure off our sexuality it can lead to longer, more relaxed lovemaking sessions, and if necessary, more ‘outercourse’ than intercourse. The usual paradigm of foreplay, arousal, penetration and orgasm may be off the menu for some, which hopefully leads to exploring new territory. Whole-body massage and arousal, a sense of humour and playfulness, slowing down and being in the moment with one another. If we don’t focus on the way it used to be, we can be open to how it can be Now.
As he ages, the masculine can find himself discovering more of his feminine side, not needing to lead and direct so often. The feminine can also find herself post menopause in a more direct and focused energy. We have both feminine and masculine energies, but most people identify more with one or the other. The feminine essence in any gender is motivated by the flow of love and feelings, relationships, connection, community. The masculine essence is drawn to mission and purpose, directing the flow of energy, free from emotions. The predominance of one or the other can change as we go through different stages of our lives, but especially as we get older and our hormones change.
This can be a good time for the masculine to relax and sink deeper, letting go of some of the ‘doing’ and move more into ‘being’. At the same time for a woman, it can be a very empowering time. Free of her hormonal cycle she can create what she wants and enjoy her life and sexuality with abandon.
For me, connection is the ultimate key to sexuality, love and intimacy. This intimate communion is deepened by embracing any limitations and changes each person is going through. It requires a flexibility and self-acceptance that develops over time. There is no quick answer, but it is helpful to know that many are in the same boat, and there are new ways of being together that will surprise you with their intensity and joy. Finally, we can focus on what is really important – being as one, the divine union, the aliveness of spirit in the body, here and now.
Peaks and Valleys
We have tended to see the ‘peak’ as the ultimate goal, the desirable summit, full of adrenaline and discovery. But for myself, as I grow older, there are still some peaks of course, but the treasures and the pleasures of the valley are more enticing.
I have been partnered and single in these years over fifty. And in both circumstances, I found it essential to keep my sexual energy alive and my heart open to divine union. The tools we can all use are varied and include emotional intelligence, movement, meditation, healthy lifestyle, self-pleasuring, deepening into your masculine and feminine essence, breathwork, pelvic opening and self-inquiry.
I had to find the courage to be honest about my own changes and needs. By being willing to find the loving way through, without giving up, I developed closeness and resilience in my relationships. I found that the rewards, when I push through that barrier, were astounding; the intimate sharing and revelation of my vulnerabilities unlocked my hidden sacred depths. In the valley we find ourselves, each other and the pure union of togetherness and oneness.