Photos of Zoë Kors by Emily Sandifer
Relationship is the bootcamp of self-realization
I saw her across the tent in the middle of the desert in Joshua Tree at Bhakti Fest, and the oppressive dry heat was farthest from my mind. She radiated warmth, aglow with her welcoming smile to every woman who came up to her expressing some form of gratitude. Donning a flowy white top and pants, with platinum short hair and blue eyes, Zoë Kors wore a silver ring in the shape of a clitoris.
I immediately thought of The Red Tent by Anita Diamont, a book I had read so long ago about the significance and purpose of women in Biblical times. During a woman’s moon cycle, and during and after childbirth, she would stay in the Red Tent with only other women, where they were their own authorities.
It was no coincidence I found Zoë; as a fellow explorer seeking out new paths of expression, I had covered some ground but never explored womanhood through the lens of sexuality in a group setting. A suburban mom and professional, I longed for a more spiritual context for my sexuality. I had subscribed to Zoë’s free emails “Daily Notes from Your Pussy” which delivers wisdom daily to your inbox in the voice of your vagina. So I was excited to attend her workshop. I became eager for the session to begin.
Changing Conversation. Cultivating Consciousness
Zoë Kors is a sex and intimacy coach. She is on a mission to revolutionize the way we think about, talk about, and experience sexuality. She delivers her work through online programs, private coaching, personal and couples intensives and retreats, and at Bhakti Fest workshops both co-ed and for women only.
A sought-after “sexpert,” she is widely published and is currently consulting and creating content for Coral, a new sexuality app. Zoë is also a featured sex expert on Residence11.com, a new website focusing on sex and lifestyle.
In the space of Sacred Sexuality, Zoë’s voice is unique. A native New Yorker, she maintains a no-nonsense edge, while throwing down deeply spiritual ideas about sexuality that lean into her extensive training and initiation in her tantra lineage. She’s part intellectual, part hippie. The result is a unique style of applied mysticism.
Sexuality Nourishes the Soul
In the workshop for women I attended, she described women’s sexuality as something that exists for ourselves—separate from partners—as a means of nourishing our souls. She spoke of the need for having a practiced method of connecting to our essential sensual nature through sensation and pleasure, and taught that it’s through the formlessness of arousal that the sacred feminine rises.
She says, “So much of my work is giving women permission to express themselves from a place of deep and wild truth. In order to do that we have to unravel the trauma of being raised a woman in a culture that devalues the very energy we were born to embody.”
Zoë goes on, “We are the great manifestors, we create life. And we do so by leveraging our capacity to channel creative life force energy. Shakti is expansive, chaotic, non-linear, unpredictable. This kind of energy scares the daylights out of the patriarchy. Our superpower is the very thing that we are told make us simultaneously “not enough” and “too much.”
Licking Honey from the Razor’s Edge
It’s the juxtaposition of our sacred and human selves that Zoë’s work addresses so beautifully.
Life in general, and sex specifically, can be experienced from two different perspectives at the same time. We can relate person-to-person, and also soul-to-soul.
Zoë’s own varied life experiences have brought her to where she is now. Her original Zen seeds were planted by Alan Watts as she lay in bed late at night listening to his dharma talks on the radio. Watts called himself a Zennist and offered Buddhism as an alternative to psychotherapy.
A few years later while studying Art History at University of Pennsylvania, she leaned heavily on those teachings when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. As Zoë’ says, “There is something inherently spiritual about having (and surviving) cancer at the age of 20. It was a very powerful lesson in non-attachment. The inevitability of death is a beautiful teacher.”
Her interest in Zen expanded to other spiritual disciplines. These days, Zoë is back to her Zen beginnings as a member of Prajna Heart Zen Center in the DTLA Arts District.
Yoga is something she began practicing in a tiny studio above a used bookstore, long before it became the industry it is today. Many years later it was through her yoga practice that she discovered Kirtan (call-and-response devotional chanting) and finally Tantra through an immersion with the late Psalm Isadora, which permanently transformed her life.
“There is a lot I could say about Psalm,” Zoë reflects. “For me, she completely shredded the veil of illusion and exposed me to a world, a reality, a paradigm that was so profoundly real, it replaced my entire idea of what my life was all about. She was brilliant and mesmerizing and magical and infuriating—in all the best ways. It was through working with Psalm that I learned life is like licking honey from the razor’s edge, tasting the sweetness as it cuts you.”
It is not surprising that Zoë’s work with women has led her to coaching couples. In fact, couples currently make up 50% of her client roster. She will tell you that her passion for relational work is a direct reflection of the arrival of her soon-to-be husband, Andrew Thomas Roth, a Zen practitioner and coach in his own right who co-facilitates her couples programs and workshops.
Zoë’s couples work has inspired her own model which she calls “Radical Intimacy.” She has a couples program, workshop, and a forthcoming book under that name. Her methodology includes the balanced and skillful weaving of the three kinds of intimacy (physical, emotional, and what she calls energetic) with the three levels of intimacy (self, other, and the universe).
“One of the questions I am asked most often by women — as well as men – is, ‘How do we have a more deeply connected, intimate experience inside and outside the bedroom?’ ” Zoë says. “There is a simple truth about relationship. We can meet each other only to the extent that we can meet ourselves. If you want to feel more connected, you must be more connected to yourself. A necessary component of relational work is individual work. I often say that relationship is the bootcamp of self-realization. Fortunately, I’ve got some hacks to make it more pleasurable!”
At the end of the workshop, we became a tribe of women, seeing each other for our heartache and beauty. Tears and smiles were abundant as we hugged one another, sharing an intimate moment in time with our hearts open. How does one go back into the world with a heart wide open? By leaning into our collective womanhood, by allowing our innate, wild, feeling-nature, and by tending the flame within. Walking away, I realized this is the sisterhood that will break the patriarchy.
More Radical Intimacy
Zoë Kors at Bhakti Fest
Zoë Kors will be leading workshops at Bhakti Fest at 29 Palms in September. For more information, check out the schedule at: bhaktifest.com.
Shelley Karpaty is a yogi living in the Bay Area where she brings her spirit into writing, recruiting and career coaching. Medium: medium.com/@skarpaty and Instagram @shelleykarpaty