Sean Feit Oakes, PhD teaches Buddhism, Haṭha Yoga, and Organic Intelligence® with a focus on the integration of meditation, philosophy, and self-inquiry with trauma resolution and social justice. He has studied in Zen, Tibetan, and Theravāda Buddhist lineages, including training as a monk in Burma, and is authorized to teach Insight Meditation by Jack Kornfield. Other primary teachers include Anam Thubten, Sayadaw U Janaka (vipassanā), Eugene Cash and Sylvia Boorstein (Insight Meditation), Alice Joanou (yoga), and Steven Hoskinson (Somatic Experiencing/Organic Intelligence®).
Sean teaches public classes at East Bay Meditation Center, Yoga Tree, and Spirit Rock Meditation Center, and is core Teacher Training faculty (E-RYT 500) for Piedmont Yoga and Yoga Garden. He works with teens through Inward Bound Mindfulness Education and is Associate Faculty with Organic Intelligence® (SEP/OICC), integrating mindfulness with trauma resolution. Sean received his PhD in Performance Studies from UC Davis, writing on states of consciousness in Buddhist meditation and experimental dance, and lives in Oakland with a beautiful family and community.
About my classes
Buddhism and Yoga are vast and beautiful interwoven traditions that encompass transformative practices from asana to meditation, rigorous philosophical logic to mystical poetry and radical interventions in our daily lives. I was initially drawn, in my early twenties, to intensive Buddhist meditation retreat, recognizing that my distress as a young man growing up in the relative privilege of the California intellectual suburban middle class, was primarily a condition of my own mind. When I started Aśtānga Yoga soon after, it was as a dancer, and only over time did I realize that I was engaging my inner process both through stillness, in meditation, and through movement, in āsana. As my practice has matured over 20+ years, I have come to deeply respect both practices as valuable aspects of an integrated spiritual path, and teach them as inseparable elements of a yogic life.
My teaching is strongly rooted in the Theravāda Buddhist tradition as expressed in the Thai Forest and Burmese satipaṭṭhāna lineages, as transmitted by their Western students in the Insight Meditation tradition. To this relatively conservative foundation I bring influence from Zen, Mahāyāna, and Tibetan Buddhist traditions, Haṭha and Bhakti Yoga, Śaiva Tantra, and the eclectic personal process work that is 21st century California. I attempt always to recognize my own positionality in relation to the Asian traditions, and to be transparent about my interpretive approach. I do not try to assemble a new path from chosen fragments of many paths, but to practice a single path — Buddha Dharma — from the position of an honest postmodern citizen.
My yoga āsana classes offer a slower moving but challenging vinyāsa centered on continuity of breath awareness and physical grace. I welcome all body types and levels, and everyone is encouraged to practice in the rhythm and intensity that’s right for them. I use very minimal music, and encourage students to draw their attention inward, letting go of social attention in favor of a focused inner stillness, even through sometimes vigorous movement. My classes emphasize practices at the heart of early Haṭha Yoga, especially prānāyāma, bandha, and kriya, over the modern innovations of acrobatics and contortion.
My philosophy and history classes emphasize an ecumenical and historical approach to the very diverse yogic traditions, balancing a postmodern perspective that attempts to understand the many conditions and influences we bring to bear when engaging with a text or teaching with heartfelt respect and devotion (bhakti) toward these teachings. I strongly encourage serious students of yoga to educate ourselves as fully as we can in the practices and ideas that form the bedrock of the historical traditions, and to cultivate the practice of meditation specifically as the heart of the ancient existential inquiry that is yoga.
Sean Feit Oakes, PhD is a musician, dancer, and Buddhist teacher, researching the intersections between contemplative and creative processes. His current work explores states of consciousness in experimental dance training and intensive meditation practice, integrating Buddhist scriptural study, trauma physiology, and social justice.
25 years of contemplative training in Zen and Burmese vipassanā, Haṭha Yoga, and Authentic Movement grounds Sean’s study of subtle states, with concurrent training in postmodern dance and performance art. He teaches yoga, meditation, and Buddhist and Hindu philosophy, and is authorized as an Insight Meditation teacher by Jack Kornfield. Sean is Associate Faculty with his mentor Steven Hoskinson in the trauma resolution and human development modality Organic Intelligence.
Sean studied music composition at CalArts (BFA, 1993) and Cornell University. In San Francisco, he trained in dance and performance with Kathleen Hermsdorff, Keith Hennessy and Jess Curtis, butoh with Katsura Kan and others, piano with David Arden and Myra Melford, and Authentic Movement with Bill McCully. He co-directed RUJEKO Performance Collaboration with Keren Abrams from 1997-2005, creating a ritual performance language deeply informed by meditative practice, and has danced and/or made music with Scott Wells, Angus Balbernie, The Bodycartography Project, Seth Eisen, AVY K Productions, Leslie Seiters Little Known Dance Theater, and Keith Hennessy’s critically acclaimed company, Circo Zero. Sean’s music for Circo Zero’s Sol Niger (2008) won an Isadora Duncan Dance Award for Best Sound/Text 2007-8.
Recent work includes The Midnight Club, a participatory late-night performance installation and training, emphasizing open-ended process and community spiritual practice, and Luminous is This Mind, a solo performance installation for 1-2 audience members at a time in complete darkness. Sean is a participant in the Body Politic Think Tank at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Sean’s PhD dissertation, “‘This Very Body is the Bodhi Tree’: The Performance of Contemplative States in the Western Jhāna Revival & Contemporary Movement Theater” was finished in 2016, and he has a new baby.