Men of a Certain Age
Volume 3 (of 3)
What are we aging men to do about our changing bodies, minds, and spirits once we recognize we’re being asked to get off the youth train and board the over-the-hill express?
Some research has shown that a change in diet can be the most effective tool for adjusting to the lower output of testosterone. This, along with a change in your exercise regime, can help counter some of the depression.
It may be time to transition from the high impact cardio and muscle building type of workouts that were so beneficial to building strength and stamina when you were younger to practices that emphasize vitality and flexibility such as meditation, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, and yoga. You may not want to drop the high impact stuff altogether, but you should moderate and begin to add restorative processes to your routine.
The difference is that the high impact types of exercise can be depleting. Every weight lifter knows that to bulk up muscle you provide your body with lots of protein and then proceed to tear the muscle fibers through anaerobic repetitive exercises using resistance. It also is known that you need to space out these workouts to allow your body to heal. The muscle rejuvenates itself by producing new muscle fiber in the micro-ruptures within the muscle. That’s why you feel sore.
Yoga, Qi Gong, and Tai Chi have the benefit of exercising joints, muscles, tendons, and bones in a way that is not depleting of your life energy (Prana, Chi, or Qi), but restorative. This, again, represents an opportunity to let go of our attachment to the exterior appearance of things – face it bro, it’s a losing battle – and a turn toward the inner, energetic nature of being.
An interesting consequence of embracing these more inwardly enhancing practices (as opposed to concentrating on physical practices that enhance our outward appearance) is that they enhance our vitality, strengthen and shape our bodies, and make our outward appearance more supple, radiant, and beautiful.
When your body is no longer metabolizing fat the same way it used to, you need to change your diet. The high-protein, high-fat diet of an athlete like Michael Phelps – 12,000 calories a day when he was in his prime – won’t work for you when you spend your day in front of a computer.
Recommendations to cut calories and increase fiber are wise to heed, as are changes in the types of proteins you take in: less meat, because it takes more effort to digest, and more plant-based proteins. You should also think about things like cutting down on coffee and other stimulants, which can lead to the depletion of the adrenal glands.
Menopause in women is much more dramatic in its physical and hormonal changes. Psychological intensity is relative. It’s really a fool’s game to try to compare the two or draw a direct correlation between them. I think the best men can do is to try and understand that big changes are afoot, and to have some compassion for yourself and others who are experiencing them. It’s time to adapt to your new emerging reality.
Just as menopause can be a second spring for women, men too, can – actually, they must – reinvent themselves in order to grow and thrive. For all that is lost, something is also gained. We are releasing a time of life that is passing away. We should now recognize the opportunity that is being presented to us.
The first step is recognizing that we are suffering. What is our delusion? What is separating us from seeing reality clearly? Suffering comes from our disconnections with reality. We need to be aware of others’ perceptions of who we are without being imprisoned by them.
Suffering arises, according to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – a sort of enlightenment how-to manual from second century India – from our attachment to the fluctuations of the mind. Our minds wander and spin, generating thoughts like so many waves on the surface of a pond. If we attach our attention to the waves, be they images of who we think we are or wish to be, or something that someone said to us that offended our sense of self, we are buffeted about, constant victims of the emotional swirl that these attachments generate.
When we still the mind, not attaching ourselves to the desires, images, and ideas that arise there, the surface of the water calms. When the water is calm, placid, and clear, it is then that we can see into the depths of the pool to learn what is really there. In other words: You don’t have to believe everything you think.
The gift of Manopause – the dreaded midlife crisis – is the opportunity to let go of the transient jangle of youth. You have spent the first half of your life learning who you are. Now you can take that knowledge and be your full self. It is an opportunity to humble yourself to the reality of your limitations – which define us as surely as the banks of the pool define its depth and size –and be grateful for them. It is also an opportunity to let go of those things that are temporary and embrace what is more lasting.
Know thyself is the inscription on the doorway of the temple of Apollo, the god of light, music, and knowledge. Life is giving you the opportunity to know yourself. Embrace it.
Check out Volume 1 (“Manopause: Yep, It’s a Thing. Sorry, Dude.”) and Volume 2 (“The Emotional and Psychological Impact of Manopause”) of this three-part series.