A clearing in North Cornwall

We bought a farm and made it a clearing. A refuge and retreat for letting go of everything that’s in the way so clarity can lead. This is an invitation to you.

Max St John
Mar 19, 2019 · Unlisted
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I’d like to invite you to come and get clear, here at Gooseham Farm, our four-acre smallholding on the Cornwall-Devon border.

We’re surrounded by fields and woodland and less than two miles from the Atlantic coast.

Our converted barn is a self-contained retreat space with a kitchen, living room and log burner.

You can come here to get clear on what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and how you’ll get it done.

We can make space for that clarity by walking along one of the wildest stretches of the Southwest coastal path, or through the 500-acre woodland nature reserve a stone’s throw from our farm.

And I can show you how to allow clarity to come through the body using the Nei Gong and Qi Gong practices that I teach.

I can take you to forage for mussels or wild garlic, we can help ourselves to eggs from the chickens and pick vegetables from our field.

I can take you to beaches only accessible on foot where you won’t find a soul, where I go when I need reminding that the sea, the sky and the spectacular rock formations have been happily doing nothing, for millenia.

Or you can simply rest.

My family and I moved to Gooseham, a tiny hamlet on the North Cornwall coast 18 months ago.

We’d been living in Brighton for 12 years, having turned my back on a brief, high-octane sprint up the career ladder at one of the world’s biggest media companies, based in London.

When the pressure, stress and my own incessant focus on work led me to mentally implode, I pretty much fled to the Sussex coast in hope of salvation.

But of course: “Wherever you go, there you are.” So for the next few years I rearranged the deck chairs of my life in various constellations, never really finding my ground.

It was around this time I met Charles and was introduced to the practice of being clear.

I’d just taken on the role of Managing Director at a consultancy that was up against some tough financial and cultural problems.

I found him and his work liberating and terrifying in equal measure — the clarity and freedom it offered me was matched by the fear of letting go of things that were familiar and safe, even if they clearly weren’t helping anyone.

Over the following two years we worked closely together — I got more and more familiar and in love with with the practice of being clear, having the opportunity to teach it at the Knowmads and Kaospilot business schools in Switzerland and Amsterdam.

Increasingly I was seeing how the role I’d taken on and the ideas that I’d committed myself to were the very things in the way. For me and for everyone else.

One day I realised that I didn’t have to do this any more. I instigated a winding down of the business and left.

It wasn’t an easy process, but the clarity made it a simple decision.

And then life could find its own way.

Our smallholding was once part of a much larger farm, the heart of which was the house that we live in, built around 1792.

It sits in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, on the edge of a nature reserve.

Most mornings the only noise you’ll hear are the birds — I’m sitting in the barn now, listening to the gentle cooing of a wood pigeon, the warbling blue tits and crows cawing as they wheel around.

On a day when the prevailing southwest wind is strong enough you can stand outside and hear the Atlantic ocean as it crashes relentlessly on the coast.

Poets, playwrights and artists have made their home here. Ronald Duncan founded a pacifist commune down in the valley during the Second World War, building his writing hut high above Marsland mouth cove, still open to walkers and writers wanting a place to rest or reflect.

Robert Stephen Hawker, eccentric priest and poet, founder of the modern harvest festival and author of the Cornish ‘national anthem’ (you didn’t know Cornwall was a separate country?) built his own hut just a few miles down the coast where he was said to smoke opium, meditate and write poetry.

We chose to make our home here for many reasons — the space it offered, the connection to the natural environment, the peace and the opportunity to develop a more sustainable way to live.

It’s exposing — being stripped of the busyness, the distractions, the noise. For all the calm this can offer, it immediately exposes everything that’s underneath.

And whatever speed your mind and body is calibrated to, everything around you moves at its own, natural pace.

The only choice you have is to embrace what’s there and allow yourself to be slowly moulded.

I’ve spent the last 15 years working with big organisations (from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to Coca Cola and WWF-UK), teaching leadership skills in Europe and Scandinavia, setting up an alternative business school in a derelict betting shop and developing my own practice of working with healthy conflict.

The thread that runs throughout and gets ever-clearer is about letting go — specifically:

“Letting go of everything that’s in the way so we can make space for life to lead and embrace everyone and everything that shows up.”

It’s what I’ve been doing for myself since the moment I realised that working a high-stress job in London no longer made any sense.

It’s at the heart of the meditative martial work I’ve dedicated myself to learning and teaching — a practice of releasing tension in the mind and body to allow everything to flow.

It’s the undercurrent that drives my conflict work — showing people that there really isn’t any conflict to solve, just learning on offer.

And it’s the reason that being clear has become one of my core practices.

Charles’ processes of Very Clear Ideas, Initiative Mapping and Identity Yoga are some of the most simple and powerful tools I’ve ever come across.

I’ve been using and practicing them for the past five years and every time I get stuck they are guaranteed to free me to move forward (or simply let go so that I can rest).

I’ve committed myself to this work of letting go and coming to Gooseham Farm is not just about doing that for myself.

We chose this place for its potential as a school and a refuge, where simply being here in this space starts to do the work. Where people can come to rest and regroup, or recommit to and build what they need to, in order to bring their work to life in the world.

So here I’m offering this to you — Gooseham Farm as a clearing. A clear space to do the work you need to do or find the ground you feel you’ve lost.

I’ve made one space available every month — stays are between 3 and 5 days.

If you’d like to come here to get clear, it starts with you emailing me.

We’ll set up a time to talk and find out what you want and need.

I’ll talk through what we can do, we’ll agree how to spend your time here and we’ll agree a cost.

What you pay will cover your accommodation, food (so you can cook while you’re here) and all your time working with me.

Catch the train from London and in four hours I’ll be picking you up from the train station.

I’ll have stocked the cupboards of the kitchen with food that you like, laid the fire and warmed the hot water in case you need a shower after your journey.

Over the time you’re here we’ll gently and systematically work through what you’ve brought to focus on.

Typically we might unpick and clarify:

  • What you are doing — getting your projects and other initiatives to a point of razor sharp clarity.
  • How you’re getting it done — identifying all the next steps that we can to realising your ideas.
  • Why you’re doing it — looking across everything you’re doing to make sure it all helps deliver on your needs.
  • What’s in your way — uncovering any personal barriers to getting this done and working to dissolve them.

We’ll use the space here to map things out, make notes and stick them on the walls.

We’ll walk the cliffs, woodlands and beaches, go for pub lunches and I can show you how to use Daoist body work to bring even more clarity and ease.

A typical day might look like:

  • Get up when you like and have breakfast at your own pace.
  • We start work together in the barn and focus for a couple of hours.
  • We take a walk along the clifftops or down to a deserted beach then on to our local, 13th century pub for lunch.
  • We find a quiet corner in the pub (there are many) and continue our work.
  • Mid-afternoon we return to the farm and you’re left to your own devices.
  • Evening comes and we have some time to talk or you might choose to rest.

And of course there are many options for what we do and where we do it. Some of this we can discuss and agree up front, and some of it we can play by ear if that feels good.

If you’d like to find out more and talk about what you need, email me at max@beingwildthings.com


Get clear on who you are, what you’re doing and how it gets…


Max St John

Written by

Showing people the way home by connecting to what’s there and working with what is. Get clear, fight well, move naturally. www.maxstjohn.com


Get clear on who you are, what you’re doing and how it gets done

Max St John

Written by

Showing people the way home by connecting to what’s there and working with what is. Get clear, fight well, move naturally. www.maxstjohn.com


Get clear on who you are, what you’re doing and how it gets done

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