Jan 30, 2022 • 43M

Wild & Sublime's Karen Yates on Rewiring Orgasms and Erotic Energy

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Interviews about the role sex, sexuality and all-things-eros have played in people's spiritual identities and practices. This podcast especially centers the stories of queer folks and sex workers.
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For over twenty years, Karen Yates worked in Chicago in the performing arts as a director, actor, writer and producer. Six years ago she left the arts and moved into a deep exploration of sexuality and energy - in Tantra and somatic sex education, and Biofield Tuning, a form of sound healing that addresses to issues in the electromagnetic field of the body. Now she is the host and producer of Wild & Sublime, a live talk show and podcast about sex for all orientations, preferences and relationship styles. She also is an intimacy coach for couples and continues to work in sound healing, where she is now developing her own energy system.

In this episode, we talk bout the Western Neo-tantric movement, orgasms post-menopause, and Karen's journey through sobriety, discovering the sacredness of the body through the New Age movement and acting, becoming an intimacy coach, and creating sex-positive community through theater and story-telling.

Follow Karen on Instagram @mybodyismyresidency

Follow Jera on Twitter: @thejerabrown or Instagram: @thejerabrown
Email: jera@jerabrown.com


Karen Yates  00:01

I believe we're on a shift of consciousness. We're going through a shift in consciousness right now. And sexuality is one of the most powerful aspects of ourselves that we routinely negate, and compartmentalize. So it is a storehouse of energy that is being locked away.

Jera Brown  00:23

For over 20 years, Karen Yates worked in Chicago in the performing arts as a director, actor, writer and producer. Six years ago, she left the arts and moved into a deep exploration of sexuality and energy in Tantra, and somatic sex education and biofield tuning, a form of sound healing that addresses issues in the electromagnetic field of the body. Now she is the host and producer of Wild and Sublime, a live talk show and podcast about sex for all orientations, preferences and relationship styles. She is also an intimacy coach for couples and continues to work in sound healing, where she is now developing her own energy system. Learn more at Karen-yates.com or wildandsublime.com. Before we get started a quick note, when we talk about tantra in this episode, we're mostly talking about the neo-tantric Western movement. I want to be cautious that we preserve the autonomy of the historic Eastern tantric religious tradition, which is not typically what Western tantric education and practices teach. It's related. It's not the same thing here.

Jera Brown  01:34

Karen thank you for joining me this morning.

Karen Yates  01:36

I am really excited to be here Jera. Thanks for having me.

Jera Brown  01:39

Karen and I go way back. We were trying to figure out...  you actually sent me a text recently, it was like, "Where, did we meet?" And I'm pretty sure it was like a poly cocktail event. But we also should give a shout out to Peter.

Karen Yates  01:53

Peter makes things happen. They are a regular contributor to my podcast, and Jera has been on my podcast as well. So I think that's where it came up, like, how do we know each other? How did it begin? But oh! No! I know where it began. It began because you were having these discussion groups at your home.

Jera Brown  02:16

Was that it?

Karen Yates  02:17

Yes. About polyamory. And I was invited by someone.

Jera Brown  02:20

There you go. The reason I brought Peter up was the first time I remember seeing you, I think besides a poly cocktail event... I think you probably don't remember seeing me. And you first remember... like I was ingrained in your brain at my house. But we were at a friend's birthday party, who holds other kinds of parties. And I'd brought Peter with me and you were there at the beach.

Karen Yates  02:43

Oh, yeah.

Jera Brown  02:47

I'm sure this is all fascinating to people. I think the point of this is that it's fun in a place like Chicago, that you run into people in all sorts of different ways, and then eventually become friends. So Karen does a lot of things around sex positivity, around bodies and healing and relationship messages and all sorts of stuff. And I thought that she would be a really interesting guests to just talk about where she got... how she got here, how she got to the point where she like, stepped up into the role of educator. So I start these like, Krista Tippett does in On Being and asking just people like, where they started. So what are your spiritual roots? Like, what did you grow up in?

Karen Yates  03:32

Yeah, thank you for asking that. I was aware from a pretty young age. And by that I mean, eight, nine, ten, like, maybe even as young as seven, that I didn't really belong to a spiritual tradition. And I knew that because I at that point was living in a Catholic neighborhood. And I would say at least five families were Catholic. And I knew all the kids and everyone went to church, and a lot of people went to parochial school. And I didn't. And I was aware of that. And I was also aware simultaneously that I was really glad about that. Even though I had an attraction to the Catholic Church, as a child, because of the grandeur and the ritual and the beauty of churches. I really thought the rule structure was pretty interesting. The Catholic rule structure that you do X number of prayers, and that gets you... that shaves time off in hell. I mean, this is how it was explained to me by the kids, right? So, but that said, I grew up with my mom and  grandmother and, they had been Catholic or my grandmother was Catholic. So it actually was in play in my household even though it wasn't alluded to. My mother, by that point was an atheist. And my father who I saw pretty regular (my parents had split up when I was young) was a Protestant. And so there was a time when he was like, Well, I think it'd be good if you went to Protestant church with me. So we went for a while, and then we both kind of lost interest. I bring that up because at a certain point in high school, I became interested in spirituality. And I became interested in learning more about the spiritual traditions around the world. Because I wanted to know more about Is God real? Is there this omniscient, all present being? And what do other people think about it? And so I... and I was also kind of feeling like, I don't think there's a God. I don't think there is a God. And so I began studying other religions in high school on my own, you know, reading up on Judaism, Hinduism, which really turned me on. I was really interested in all of the aspects of Hinduism and the gods and goddesses. And then I found Zen Buddhism, through the work of JD Salinger. And that really interested me, and I would sit there and try to empty my mind. You know, I was reading Buddhist texts, and Zen Buddhist texts, attempting to empty my mind and follow my breathing and, and it felt incredibly challenging. And I didn't realize until much much later, yes, it is challenging. It's not just you Karen. This is challenging, and I was really daunted. And I'm like, I'm not getting this, right. Because I didn't have any teacher, right. I'm just doing this on my own. And so that was, that was my childhood around spirituality. And finally, one night, I had a dream. I think I was reading some Bertrand Russell at that point. I had a dream... atheist, Bertrand Russell, atheist. I think he's an atheist? And at that point, I had a dream where I heard this voice saying: "Who are you to say, I don't exist?" And I woke up, and I'm like, Whoa. And I'm like, okay. That's all to say that it really wasn't until college that I got ignited with a sense of spirituality, like ignited. And that was really through, you know, it sounds cheesy to say, but like the New Age movement, you know, this idea that we... I think it was like finding the, you know, when Shirley MacLaine wrote these, like her memoirs, I read them, I was like, wow, and then I found the works of Seth and Jean Roberts, The Channeler or the Seth books, there's like 10 of them, about you create your reality. And that was it. That was it. I found those books and and never looked back. You know, that this idea that we are... we manifest a reality and our perception shapes our reality. That's the clear message that our perception shapes our reality. That was the beginning point for me.

Jera Brown  07:58

So how did it... so you found sort of a spiritual grounding in college, and is that when you started getting involved in the, the performing arts, too?

Karen Yates  08:07

No, I didn't. I didn't get involved in the performing... I mean, I was glancingly involved in that I knew a lot of people in theater. But it was in my 20s, when I started doing just sort of here and there I would do shows as an actor. And then in my 30s, I actually fully committed to the craft. As an actor, and then subsequently a director, I always knew I wanted to be a director. But that is when that happened. And what I became interested in at that point was the relationship with the body. So I wasn't really necessarily as much interested in the psychology of acting as much as the European movement, traditions of acting and how the body has... Now I know this is actually a distortion of Stanislavski. Because Stanislavski changed... revised his quote unquote, method. But initially, it was understood the Stanislavski is, you recreate these memories that are painful, and that like fuels your acting, so it's a mental construct. That's actually not what Stanislavski ultimately was saying. But there's a whole other European tradition, that the body can inform these emotional states or that the body can inform states. And I was very interested in that because it was far more, for me, elegant and less taxing psychologically. And I began really looking into those traditions, like Meyerhold and Jacques Lecoq and laban methods and so that, and then I became interested in playback Theater, which was a type of improvisatory theater where you told your own stories and people reenacted them on the spot and that felt like something very potent. You know, the roots of theater, obviously, most people know are in religion. And that felt like we were... I was tapping into something really deep and profound. Stories, people's stories, recreating them adding music. And then when people saw their stories recreated in front of them it was a powerful change moment for most people. And then to be the actor in it. Inevitably, whatever role, you assumed you had a direct connection to that character somehow, internally

Jera Brown  10:29

Feels like there's a lot of threads here that tie together. This idea of being a sacred being, and then being able to enact that part of that sacredness, and somebody else by being a part of their story.

Jera Brown  10:44

So being sober is now an important part of your identity. When did your drinking start because that obviously has to inform your relationship with your body.

Karen Yates  10:53

For sure. I was supremely lucky. Or fortunate I should say. I began drinking in high school, but not on a daily basis. For me, it was... I was extremely shy, and it was a way for me to connect to people. So it was more like parties when I went to parties or with my girlfriends, you know, at slumber parties or whatever. And, but when I got to college, it really, really kicked in, because I was going to the bars, and then drugs started. And I had a pretty ingrained habit. By the time I was a junior in college, a daily habit, and I was starting to get extremely depressed, only realizing later, you know, alcohol is a depressant. And if you're given to depression, this is going to make it far, far worse. So I got sober when I was 23. And it actually had to do with this idea of a spiritual path. Because as I told you just now that, you know, I'd found these books, I was really on fire. And at that point, I realized, you can take (as I saw it at that time) you can take the high road, or you can take the low road. And if you want to develop yourself spiritually, you're going to have to come to a decision about this life that you're leading. And I'm not talking about people that use plant medicine and things like that. But I was very heavily involved in in hallucinogens, too. And I started them because I wanted this sort of spiritual experience, but it got away from me, you know what I mean? And so I had this like moment of like, you're going to have to choose, you're going to have to choose what you want here. But as many people know, who bottom out, the choice, you just don't sort of like sit there and be like, Yeah, I'm gonna stop. That does not happen. The choice is made for you, you know what I mean? You come to a really critical point, where it's like, Oh, my God, I'm gonna fucking die if I don't stop this. And that was the moment. So I had this like, high road, low road moment, and then six months later, you know, it was a real, real awakening, of like, oh my god, I really am gonna die if I if I don't stop this lifestyle. Not die because my liver is gonna get out, like die because I'm gonna get killed. You know, I'm in Chicago. I'm a young woman drinking and like, it's not good. It's not good. Um, so it's important for my journey, of course, because it's super important, because it really began for me this path of not wanting anything to come between me and the experience. When I say experience, capital E, I mean, the sense of the Divine, the sense of me-ness, like me as divine. And I felt like anything that started becoming a crutch in my life. That was a way to put a BandAid on a problem or a way to take me from power, my power, I needed to examine and so there were a lot of behaviors I was in at that moment. I was smoking. I was a codependent (smoking cigarettes. I mean) I had a problem with money. I mean, there were a lot of things that just had to be addressed. And I systematically just started addressing them. And I would say, really, the most important thing for me around my spiritual path is that codependency. It's this idea of looking outside for someone else, to confer power on me, or to validate me and that ultimately over time became the most important excavation for me. So I went to... I continue to go to a 12 step program for that. And it's been a remarkable journey to hold to myself, and to be able to set boundaries or become... detaching with love from others that I might be in some sort of dance with.

Jera Brown  15:08

I'm curious, codependency like, was this like a string of relationships? Or was this romantic relationships or...

Karen Yates  15:18

No, this is how I relate to everybody. This is life. This is you know, overextending yourself because you're doing something for someone else, where they should be doing it for themselves, perhaps or, you know, attempting to fix managing control situations.. For me, it was a stance. It was a way I was engaging in the world, of giving away my power, or building up other people when I needed to be addressing to myself, does that make sense? So it was systemic, it was completely across all of my life. And I sort of looked at it when I began recovery, I looked at it is concentric circles, like the first thing that got healing was my relationship with acquaintances, then friends, then really good friends, then family and lovers. You know, as like the last, the center concentric circle.

Jera Brown  16:05

I know where we're headed, because I know you... when I met you, which is non monogamous, and open to these, you know, like being playful and sexual experiences and... it's interesting to me, like when I started Left-Handed Journeys, the reason I called it what I did was this idea that so many religious traditions are on these right handed paths where you come to God, or come to the Divine through limitations, and what do you call it? What's the word?

Karen Yates  16:40

Rule structures you mean?

Jera Brown  16:41

Yeah rules, through rules. Whereas the left hand path is one that embraces passion and embraces, I guess, like, maybe not exactly a messier way to the Divine, but one that leans into desire in all these ways. And it's interesting that I feel like... this is my guess: My guess for you is that you had to create a safe internal structure in order to allow for healthier freedom?

Karen Yates  17:15

Yeah, I was laughing as you're talking because it's like, much of my earlier life, and still to this day, is based on discipline, like, hardcore discipline. And it's something which might be like, "oh, yuck discipline!" But, hmm, you know, you get up every day, you do certain things. That's me, I get up every day I do certain things. I noticed the days I don't do those certain things, I don't feel as good. And a lot of... and I'm not saying that I don't examine these disciplines from time to time and say, Hey, is this still working for me? Because for a long time, I didn't question things. You know, I also had an issue with food. So for many years, and when I say many years, I mean, like, 12 plus years, I had a very rigorous way of eating in order to break free of a type of compulsivity, right? And then eventually, I was like, Okay, I don't think... I'm going to cautiously experiment because I don't think that I need to be doing this quite as rigorously. And I don't. I don't anymore. I'm not quite as rigorous around that. And it's been okay. I say that as an aside, but discipline, as much as I chafe under certain types of discipline, has been very, very freeing. Extremely freeing for me. Because I like what you said about creating a sense of safe foundation inside. And I'm not... how can I put it?  I'm not leg shackled to these disciplines at all. I don't feel any more like, Oh, I have to do this. Now today am I going to drink or use drugs? Highly unlikely. Do I flirt with that? Not really. There's certain bottom lines, like, I don't need to go back to that. Like, I'm already having some incredible internal experiences. I don't need a mood altering substance to get me to that zone anymore. I don't need to, or in my case, specifically, I don't need these things to comfort me or make me feel better, because that's why I was using them back in the day, you know, to like, take the edge off. That's why I was using them.

Jera Brown  19:38

Right. So it seems like a lot of your 20s, 30s, and 40s was around ridding yourself of certain crutches, by developing disciplines around them, or... and I'm assuming it also does a lot of just internal work around why you need them.

Karen Yates  19:53

For sure, yeah. Because if you're not doing that internal work and asking, what's my trigger here... Because see once you don't have the crutch you have to address all the triggers. You have to be like, Oh, why am I feeling enraged right now? There's no beer, there's no beer or shot of tequila for the rage.

Jera Brown  20:15

At the same time here, you're digging into theater and which has to then be... I don't want to call theater healthy. Like I don't... it can be healthy. It can be a lot of things, but probably more authentic ways of, of digging into your emotional life and your internal life.

Karen Yates  20:33

Yeah, I mean, I always saw theater as a spiritual path, because it's so damn hard.

Jera Brown  20:39


Karen Yates  20:39

It's really hard. Like we live in a culture that doesn't support art on any level. And so then when you're in theater there's a kind of a... again, you're being... the power brokers are conferring "you get in this show, you don't get in this show," or as a director, there's other issues. So it's like, you're always kind of having to walk a line and find yourself over and over again, and not fall into the trap of like, the audience loves me.

Jera Brown  21:12

Was there a turning point that theater started to become less important, and you develop these other interests that you're a little more <tied into> now?

Karen Yates  21:21

Yeah, well, you know, what ended up happening was, I moved out of straight theater and by straight theater, I mean, scripted. You know, a playwright writes a play, and then a company, take that play and actors and director, right? I moved into opera as a director. And then I moved into... I went to grad school, and I began creating my own work because I was becoming much more interested in socio-political statements through art. And I wanted to start creating my own work. And once I started doing that, and becoming very interested in sound, as a force, and experience... I ended up after doing this for a while and being relatively successful, I mean, I was getting grants, I was able to do my work, really bottoming out on art. I just bottomed out, I was just like I can't... it came very quickly, very slowly, like, this is not sustainable for me, energetically. I was being taxed, and I wasn't making revenue. And I split up with my husband at that time. It sort of like, put me in this whole new zone. And that's when I would say about a year after I split with my husband, I found Tantra. You know, I was beginning to do sexual exploration. But I wanted something a little deeper. And I knew Tantra existed. And that was the first path I took of like, seriously working with energy. And then biofield tuning, which is a type of sound healing, I do, quickly came right after that. And so the two were sort of together in my life, and really plunged me into this place where I was working with energy in my body frequency. And it was very powerful. It still is very powerful. And from there, I got my certification. And I use the word certification. I don't know, what is certification? From a Tantra School on the west coast of the US. You know, I look at kind of the way Tantra is taught is it's fairly distorted. I don't think this is what Tantra was, like millennia ago. But I think it can be very useful to begin locating erotic energy and energy in the body period. Like putting energy in the body and experiencing energy in the body. I think it's extremely useful for that. But I began becoming very interested in somatic sex education, which is helping people work with trauma in the body, hands on work, somatic work, basically, helping people work with trauma in the body and work through maybe obstacles to pleasure. That became very interesting to me. So then I went to the institute for the study of somatic sex education in Canada, and did their program that has been wonderful. And in the course of that that led me to create Wild and Sublime, the show, getting back to theater and performance, and then the podcast.

Jera Brown  24:34

Yeah, it's interesting it feels like a full circle, in a way. And all this too then was also a relationship with the body right? Different ways of influencing the body.

Karen Yates  24:44

I think everyone has a different way of experiencing energy. Some people it's a visual experience, some people... Yeah, for some people, it's very visual or they're seeing things or they're experiencing things in different ways. For me, it's very body based, you know, waves of energy, or, you know, when I work on clients as a biofield tuner, I can feel energy shift in them, and then me, I'm experiencing everything in my body. And working with my body, and their bodies simultaneously, my body becomes kind of a doorway, to their experience. And it's a little hard to put words to this. But it's a kind of, I guess, it's sort of emergence of energy. And that I am moving energy, with frequency. And experiencing it in my body knowing... It is very hard to describe. But it's an internal sense. It's an internal sense. It's both mental, in my mind's eye, and bodily sensations, when the energy has landed for them, when they have accepted energy.

Jera Brown  25:55

So there's all this professional and educational ways into the erotic and into the body. And then I'm assuming that throughout all this time, you're also then just personally exploring your relationship with erotic and sexuality. Can you talk about your personal journey towards sex positivity? What that looks like?

Karen Yates  26:18

Yeah, you know, I would have to say that my, really the thing that kind of kicked everything off is, I had a partner with whom I had a great sexual relationship. And I began seeing that I had this construct about placing a ceiling on pleasure, that I had to, like, push through. And I don't mean that like... you know, just break through. And I did. And that led me to other types of sexual interactions, you know, like group interactions. And that was a very powerful thing starting to go to like group sexual events, because it sort of stripped me of this sense of, Oh, I've got to look a certain way, or I've got to be cute, or, you know, any last vestige of lack of body confidence, sort of got thrown out the door, the minute I was at group events, and just seeing people fuck and do stuff. I'm like, Oh, we're bodies in space. I mean, it felt sort of theatrical. You know, when you're in theater, you're very accepting, just sort of rolling around on the floor and doing stuff. And I'm like, Oh, here, we are again. Just kind of like, being ourselves having sex, you know. And I will also say that, you know, I alluded to the food thing earlier on in my life, and I was extremely heavy. And by this point, I'd lost a ton of weight. And I really felt these experiences, were just bringing me more and more into my body in a very healthy way. And Tantra did the same thing. It was just, I was just sinking deeper and deeper into body acceptance, and being in my body. And I can't even remember what you just asked, but it's like my personal journey. Yeah, it was just so helpful. And I felt more and more free. So at that point I was already starting to explore polyamory, and open relationships. And I continue to do so. But I'm also kind of like... like, anything, we were talking about discipline earlier, I keep checking in. I'm like, Well, what do you want exactly here? You know, I've tried on polyamory for a while now, for a number of years. I'm like, you know, I don't have an anchor partner and I'm like, Yeah, I think I'd like that. I think I'd like more of a primary relationship in my life. You know, I don't want to be all hierarchical, but I would like someone in my life that is... have a meaningful relationship with someone. I don't have that right now. I mean, I'm doing... I've got a lot on my plate. I don't think that's an excuse. But I'm like, Oh, yeah. How would I fit in a relationship? Like a really big question. I don't know. I don't know. But, yeah. Did I answer your question?

Jera Brown  28:58

Yeah. I think so. Right. So this is after you split with your husband. And you're... this is around the time then that you're moving away from straight theater, and you're finding Tantra, and digging in that you're also then... it sounds like that's when you started exploring through these parties and stuff finding a sense of body positivity or body acceptance through seeing just bodies and pleasure.

Karen Yates  29:27

Yeah but it wasn't even like I was sitting there excavating like, Oh how do I feel here? Am I comfortable? It felt really natural and organic. You know, just like yeah, this is the way it should be. Yeah let's do this. This is cool. This is really great. You know, and I'm not you know, I always have to like do my PSA. I'm not saying this is for everybody. But for me, it was. It was felt really groovy. It felt really like yeah, this is  a good thing. And that's to say that I'm not really engaging in that nowadays, as much, you know, even pandemic notwithstanding, you know, it's like, okay, there was a moment when I was doing it a lot, because it was important. And now, there are other things that are important. So there was that, and then in the workings toward my somatic sex ed certification and starting the show, I was already starting to form different alliances with different folks. And the show brought me in contact with so many people and communities like the kink community, sex therapists, so the show Wild and Sublime became, as I began the show, in 2018, it became sort of a hub. And there are all these spokes leading to the hub. And it became almost like a, as I saw it every month when I produced it live... So it's a talk show, right with entertainment. And so I was doing these panel discussions, and I am doing these panel discussions, because the show starting again. People kept coming back to the show every month, and then post show became like this networking event. People would talk and they would want to communicate what they'd heard. And it became so enlivening, realizing that there was this thing going on. There was this really juicy vibe that was happening, where people were, like, electrified by what they were hearing on stage, because it was sex positive. It was like, hey, it's cool. Let's drop the shame. It's cool. And people just wanted to talk afterwards. They wanted to talk about their experience. And then folks in the sex communities were meeting up with each other and chatting and saying, Hey, how you doing? And it became really lovely. And I really, I love that aspect of the show.

Jera Brown  31:45

Where did the idea of it come from?

Karen Yates  31:47

Yeah, like most of my ideas, they're just straight up downloads. You know, I was sitting in my apartment, and I was like, I want to do something. I want to do something public facing. And I wasn't even thinking of performance, I was thinking like a workshop. And this whole idea just hit me, just came in almost wholesale, like the whole thing. And I began working on it pretty quickly. I didn't let it sit in my brain too long. I'm like this is this is a great idea. You got to go do something here,

Jera Brown  32:20

Where are the spiritual aspects of this for you?

Karen Yates  32:23

The spiritual aspects for me are, I believe we're on a shift of consciousness, we're going through a shift in consciousness right now. And sexuality is one of the most powerful aspects of ourselves that we routinely negate, and compartmentalize. So it is a storehouse of energy that is being locked away. And rule structures and religious concepts, a lot of things get placed on it. And what we're doing is we're locking up our power. We're locking up huge swathes of our power. And so for me what the show does is it says, Hey, come out of your cage. Come out of the cage. You don't have to be living in shame about your desires, whatever they are, you don't have to be living in shame about what's happened to you. You can learn how to relate your needs. You can learn how to cooperate, have cooperative sexual sensation based interchanges. You can have pleasure, you can have sensation, and it's all okay. And I think that is what people are responding to. And that's what people... people are like, wow, this is about acceptance.

Jera Brown  33:36

How are you personally claiming your power?

Karen Yates  33:39

Right now? Um, I am... that's a really great question. Right now, how am I personally claiming my power? I am developing my own energy system, which also kind of came in on a massive download over time. And as I work more and more with energy inside of myself, I'm seeing like, where I limit myself. How it's happening for me these days is I'm speaking up more. I mean, it might seem like, Oh, she speaks up a lot given, you know... and then like, well, you know, I'm speaking more where there's moments where it's like, I'm tired of this I gotta say something. If I don't say something, it's gonna just... this situation in this relationship is just gonna keep on happening. I know that sounds super basic, but I think it's easy to get scared and be like, Oh, this is a scary moment. Yeah, I mean, I would say that's probably the biggest thing and stepping into a larger sense of self. Stepping into like, I'm not gonna hide. Again, I know people are like, What do you mean? You have a show? Like how the hell are you hiding? I think there's... you can hide in plain sight, right? You can hide in plain sight. And I'm aware how I'm hiding okay? Let me just put it that way. I'm aware where I'm hiding.

Jera Brown  34:59

Well, we develop these public faces too that we hide behind.

Karen Yates  35:03

Yeah it's just a persona, nothing more, nothing less.

Jera Brown  35:08

So the last thing I want to talk about, I had you on a show for Rebellious [magazine] or an event to talk about menopause. And I think that's something we definitely don't talk about enough, right? I guess both like how menopause changed you and where your power is on the other side.

Karen Yates  35:28

I am fortunate in that I did not have a really hard menopausal journey. I know a lot of female bodied people do around, you know, fluctuating hormone levels and just the whole thing. And yes, my body's changed. But I didn't have like a really gnarly experience with it. I mean, I would say the first thing is I had to sort of reorient to various types of pleasure. And I became much more conscious about how is the orgasmic state occurring in my body? Like, I mean, one thing that was great about tantra is it just made me way more able to achieve pleasure states in... all different levels of pleasure states. And as well as the work I do in biofield tuning is, you know, there's pleasure states in that as well. So that I already had that going for me, but I had to become a little more conscious when I was in orgasmic places of like, okay, it's different now. I don't know if I'm likin' this as much because it doesn't feel as intense. And then I like, I basically say that I rewired my system through conscious placement of attention. And what I mean is that like through breath... I felt like I had to rewire my system through conscious attention. And what does that mean? As I say that? As orgasmic energy was going through me, like really directing it consciously through my body and kind of redirecting and creating pathways of pleasure that might not have been there before or re-wiring or reconnecting aspects that might have gotten a little unconnected through this change in the body. And so that is what happened. So there was a real conscious application. And so that might seem like what the fuck is she talking about? Well, what I'm talking about is when a person I think, or I should just say me, as I got to more and more awareness of my energy states, more aware of my personal power that I hold in energy, then I was never looking for someone else to do it for me. I became aware that pleasure is my birthright. And I can develop my capacity for pleasure, be it in mindful erotic practice by myself, through working with energy as it moves through my body, and I have tools now to do that. And I have the ability to consciously manipulate energy. That is... everyone can do it. Basically, this isn't some specialized witchiepoo thing I've got going, like everybody can do this. It just requires discipline. Discipline, mindfulness, tutelage. You know, tutelage. I didn't want to be the the kid on the pillow attempting Zazen You know what I mean? I just... tutelage is important. And putting yourself in the path of instruction is important. And in terms of the menopause thing, no one was really telling me about that. I just kind of figured it out. I'm like, oh, yeah, I I reject this idea that my orgasms aren't going to be as awesome because I'm older. I fucking reject that.

Jera Brown  39:20

When you're talking about tutelage I mean, what recommendations do you have for people? What should they start like Googling, you know?

Karen Yates  39:28

So there is a fair amount of videos on orgasmic breathing. I think that is a great place to start. Barbara Carrellas. I think Barbara Carellas and their Urban Tantra book and workshops. I have not taken a workshop from them. But I think their book Urban Tantra is really great because it doesn't genderize Tantra, but it does bring in a lot of work around energy and breathing. I think that's a great starting point. And I would say, I think Barbara is starting up workshops again soon in New York. I think that kind of work is great. I think if you're going to go, the more... the other Tantra path, more heteronormative Tantra, you just got to gotta go in with your eyes open. There's gonna  be a lot of shit coming down. If you're sensitive to that, some people aren't sensitive to it. And that's fine, you know, but if you're like, Uh I don't want to really live in the binary , you can still find Tantra, I think, good Tantra instruction out there that is not like binary based. And by binary based I mean, I'm sure everyone who's listening to you knows, I mean, like, it's more like the masculine and the feminine right? But I like to see it as like, electro magnetic.

Jera Brown  40:46

Well, and I think also just being conscious that this is a place where there's a lot of manipulation and power.

Karen Yates  40:55


Jera Brown  40:56

Just because someone says they're a teacher does not mean that they're qualified, or it does not mean that they have permission to touch you, etc.

Karen Yates  41:05

There's a lot of pitfalls. But then there's a lot of good stuff, you know,

Jera Brown  41:09

Right. What do you call that? Like, being really conscious of red flags.

Karen Yates  41:13

For sure. I think if something starts feeling weird, like that is the moment to be like, okay, hold on a moment.

Jera Brown  41:19

But yeah, I have ever Urban Tantra. I love that book. I have, I guess I should say, I tend to call things... I tend to call it Neo-Tantra.

Karen Yates  41:29

Yeah me too.

Jera Brown  41:29

In order to separate it from... but I mean, there's something to be found in these neo-tantric traditions. Yeah, I think we covered a lot of ground. Do you have any last thoughts? Anything that we didn't talk about that you're like, damn, this is important.

Karen Yates  41:47

Oh, wow. You know, you said, you're going to ask me what the erotic is. And so I was like, What do I think? I was like, Oh, my God. I don't know what to say. But I did come upon something. And I think... but it does sort of tie up with everything we're talking about. I think the erotic is an invitation to explore the mysterious adventure of ourselves. And my life has been pretty... I have had a magnificent adventure. And I would invite people to really explore themselves and look to themselves for the adventure. I'm not saying... this isn't about like independence or self sufficiency or like turning away from other people. Not at all. But there's there's so much juiciness inside. There's so much. Each of us are really unique, and to build a magical relationship with self is the greatest journey possible.