Windmills of your mind

“Round, like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning
On an ever-spinning reel…

As the images unwind
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind.”

These are some excerpts of lyrics from the song The Windmills of Your Mind. Written by French composer Michel Legrand with English lyrics by Americans Alan and Marilyn Bergman

Since moving to Brixton to attend the SCA, I have often found myself humming this song. This is mainly because I walk past a windmill every day on my way to school.

The Brixton Windmill, by Windmill Gardens at the top of Brixton Hill is London’s last remaining working windmill. It is a relic of Lambeth’s rural past. Having attended some lively tea and coffee mornings arranged by the Friends of Windmill Gardens, who work to preserve the site, I have become fascinated by this local landmark. The windmill still produces flour which can be purchased from local stores. 

My daily walk from the windmill to the SCA takes me fourteen minutes in fair weather. Enough time for me to mull over the symbolism that windmills hold for me. 

Growing up I spent a fair bit of time around a windmill. My parents are both involved in a spiritual order and their retreat centre is located by an old windmill in the countryside. Their practices, similar to most spiritual disciplines, involve meditation, mindfulness, exercising kindness, gratitude and being altogether conscious of the unity and interconnectivity of life. Their school of thought paid particular attention to the human heart having primacy in the transformative spiritual experience. Music and food therefore, was a big feature in gatherings. Books and reading alone were not considered sufficient for the rigours of the path. I often heard my father say how it was a practice not an academic method. 

Life is cyclical. Like the revolving sails of a windmill, things are repeated and we see patterns. Fast forward the best part of two decades and I hear echoes of those teachings my parents espoused in Marc’s ‘Town Hall’ sessions. We are routinely encouraged to write down and share our gratitude list and to embrace the power of positive thinking. Music sounds the beginning of our day and our master classes. Even Uri, our strategy mentor with his somewhat nihilistic quips, often says he is a practitioner not an academic. This is a place of action not words.

‘Town Hall’ is SCA speak for school assembly. It is there you realise that there is definitely a creative sub-culture being promoted amongst our cohort. The word cult has sometimes been spoken from the lips of the students attending here to describe their experience. And anyone dropping into the school as we collectively do a guided meditation in front of a monitor, co-ordinated by a bearded man in brightly coloured pantaloons may be forgiven for thinking that.  

I am more familiar than I’d like to be with questioning whether or not I am in some sort of cult. Having grown up in a household in which my parents were involved with an institution where highly committed people worked towards a common lofty vision, all I can say is, it depends. But there is one factor where the SCA fails in qualifying as a cult. You are free to leave (I’m assuming no one has tried yet). In most cults if you leave you are collectively banished and your ostracism may even have other punishments attached. Here we’d probably just make a funny GIF for you as a memento.

So, it is not quite a cult, and it is not a typical school. On my morning walk from the windmill, I think I realised what this space is for me. The SCA is an oven.

Life, like a windmill grinds down your husk. You are polished into fine flour, your ‘creative dough’ can then be enriched with ingredients, kneaded, moulded, given time to rise. You are then placed in the oven which has been taken to the right temperature and baked. No part of this process is easy or comfortable. But the journey from grain to flour to bread requires a mill, a baker and an oven. And bread is the staff of life, it is ‘living and giving’. Bread longs to be shared at the feast of life. 

The days of saying the Lord’s prayer at assembly are long gone but here is an excerpt from the circles in the windmills of my mind.

Our father
who Art in heaven
Give us this day
Our daily bread…


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