Chiron Returns (~51 years)

Some people manage to avoid the impact of the earlier midlife transits, but no one avoids the effects of the Chiron return. It’s hardwired into the human body to go through a major shift at this age. As I said earlier, the median age of menopause and the Chiron return exactly coincide, and I think this is a very useful piece of information about the menopausal transition.

In women, the peak of midlife is often experienced around menopause. For women (unlike men), there is a clear biological marker that youth is over, even if that marker is only understood retroactively. There is no green light that goes on when you have your last period, no announcement that this is the last one. No genie jumps out of your packet of tampons or pads and says: “You won’t need me anymore!” No, you have to wait a year before you find out that was indeed the last one and that fertility and the rhythm of a monthly cycle are no more. It is indeed puberty in reverse, but this time with a lot more awareness of how you feel, confusingly combined with a lot less clarity about when the significant moment has actually occurred.

Thus, many women get anxious and confused during this time, think they are ill, and don’t realize they are in the midst of a process that has its own wisdom and that is indeed moving along its merry way. All is in flux; it is not going to be like this forever. But when you haven’t slept properly for a month, and the hot flashes are happening several times an hour with increasing ferocity, it’s hard to believe that it will ever end. So, many women choose hormone-replacement therapy to try to take everything back to where it used to be, which is usually a bad idea.

This is not to deny that the symptoms of menopause are often very troublesome. But their coinciding with the Chiron return is an indication that supports the intuition and experience of many women: that menopause can be a deeply healing passage, if dealt with respectfully and gently, allowing plenty of time for rest and adjustment.

In Chinese medicine, there is a concept of a women’s life called the Four Gateways. The first gateway is at menarche, the onset of menstruation; the second, at marriage, which also means the onset of an active sex life; the third, at pregnancy; and the fourth, at menopause. During any of these gateway phases, a woman’s health is both more vulnerable and also more accessible to positive change. Her health can change for good or ill at these times, depending on how well she cares for herself and on the quality of any medical care she receives.

The menopausal woman is in a liminal, transitional phase, and she is pregnant with her future, wise, elder self. She needs to take very good care of herself, go on retreat as much as possible, not exhaust her adrenal glands, clarify her life so it really works for her, and let go of occupations and relationships that drain her physically or emotionally. Most of the symptoms of menopause are actually an injunction from the body to do just this, and we harm ourselves by trying to medicate them away, especially through the use of hormones. Hot flashes, for example, will greatly diminish if one adopts a pregnant woman’s diet, with bland nourishing food, no alcohol or spices, along with early nights and an under-stimulating schedule.

At the Chiron return, men also feel a drop in their hormone levels, paralleling the hormone changes in women. While these changes are often less obvious in men than they are in women, diminished levels of testosterone can affect male sexuality and mood. Andropause can give rise give rise to a loss in confidence and a sense of insecurity.

For men, too, if you can relax around the transitional time and follow the wisdom inherent in the process, there is a rebalancing of body and psyche that changes emotional needs, sexual drive, and energy levels. This doesn’t make relationships and sexual experiences any less pleasurable, but in fact gives a heightened capacity for intimacy and fully felt heart and body satisfaction.

Male or female, if you engage with the processes of menopause and andropause with respect for the body’s wisdom, then with the Chiron return you will gain a gift of deep healing that can have profound psychological, physical, and spiritual effects.