Posted by: Linda Proud | February 11, 2011

A Rainy Day at the Abbey

Do ideas pop in our heads like light bulbs? Or arise from some drug-induced dream? Whence that a-ha! moment and, more importantly, how can we bring it on or must we just wait?

A friend wants me to do a workshop on inspiration and creativity with her and I’m thinking, ‘What me? You’ve got to be kidding!’ Because I’ve been haunted by these questions all my life and have never found answers – or have I?

Something is going on now which is a bit familiar. It begins in the doldrums and a repetitive thought pattern which runs something like: I’ve finished my book. I don’t know what to do next. What shall I do next? There’s no such thing as a muse and, even if there were, why would she bother with me? Perhaps I’m too old to do any more. Yes. That’s it. Time to rest. Oh, moan…..

And then the magic starts, and it always starts the same way in the same place, that is, outside of me. Not in my head. Not in a fine frenzy with my eyes rolling. No, outside, in that world which looks so, well, mundane on the face of it. Boring old world, the theatre of magic. Because it starts like rain, a drop here, a drop there, and me, so parched, running to collect every drop although, in the end, not all drops will be required: a stream will coalesce from just a few of them.

So there we are, gathered at the kitchen table in the Abbey at Sutton Courtney. It is a 13th century abbey, extended and patched over the centuries, standing in four acres of ground, the home of a dwindling community rooted in the Judaeo-Christian tradition but openly exploring spirituality in whatever guise it appears. Thus they run courses and retreats on yoga, poetry, sound therapy etc.

The Abbey at Sutton Courtney

Four of us sat at the table, one a man called Brad from the Abbey, one a chirpy, cheerful lady who was introducing us and who I discovered later to be a tertiary Franciscan, my friend and I, lifelong questers on the road of philosophy, all discussing creativity as the rain pattered in the beautiful courtyard. It was very quiet and still. And we talked about how inspiration appears outside of us and how the source of creativity is within and is rooted in stillness, how important it is to be still yet receptive, aware. The rain pattered into box-bordered beds where herbs looked dead but are only pretending.

The Abbey is full of windows, pointed-arch windows, trefoil windows, stained-glass windows. In a sitting room one wall is four feet longer than the room itself to accommodate yet another window (believe me it is true, even if you have to think like Alice to appreciate it). They look out on to the realm of inspiration: nature in its manifold shades of green, its trees and soil, grass and creatures. They look in on a world of repose and reflection. The Abbey perfectly reflects the inspiration-expiration, two-fold movement of creativity.

It is quite in keeping with the place to sum it up with a quotation from a Zen Master:

We stop the one who can’t cease from seeking things outside, and practice with our bodies with a posture that seeks absolutely nothing.

– Kosho Uchiyama
(1912 – 1999)

To read and see more about the Abbey, go to


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