We live in the anti-Zen age. A plague of clenched minds.

Our brain is not like a muscle.

Our mind is.

Our mind is a muscle, and our mind issues from the brain, but it is not our brain. It can be argued that our brain is a muscle because it is structured of our bodily cellular mass. Our brain is physiologically tangible, an organ.

But not so, our mind. Our mind is that ethereal byproduct of neuronal firing that ricochets in the vast play land of the brain, where it is housed.

Our mind is the interplay of brain chemistry but it lacks a body. Its only existence is granted when we breathe form into it by virtue of our thoughts and behaviors and reactions. Our mind wilts and flows and bustles and blossoms. Our mind is never still, and its greatest threat comes when it defies our conscious efforts.

The sign of mental health is the ability to capture and harness one’s own mind.

This is not a strength of 21st Century man. He is so distracted and suffused with goals and social and cultural ambitions that he has become a slave to his own unrecognizable mind.

Modern man’s mind is clenched with a ferocity never known before. If the mind is a muscle, modern man is unable to unclench it of its own volition and allow it exist freely for a few placid moments.

Yesterday I thought of this while standing at a corner in Hollywood while I waited for the light to turn green. The red light at this corner is prolonged. Red lights have no reason to last this long. Eventually, several of us had gathered at the corner, waiting impatiently for the light to change, thus liberating us to move move move because this is what we do. We move move move because our impatience wrings our minds in fits of rage. Move move move, we cannot stand still. All these people waiting for the light with me had their smart phones and punched and rubbed intently while waiting for light to turn green. They could not take their eyes off the stupid little screens.

Their minds were clenched. I alone stood, the old-timer, the smart phone holdout. I stared blankly at the traffic signal, watching it, but not, allowing these few moments of peace to filter and lighten my mind, to release it from its mortal toil which everyone else seemed to pursue with the aid of their little toy.

People are unable to unclench their minds.

They are so addicted to stimulus and the perpetual rush of diversion that they are uncomfortable allowing a few moments of Zen nothing to themselves. Zen being. No one just is any more, it seems. Always on, always tied up in distraction and mental absence, always somewhere, anywhere, but the here and now.

So many minds clenched around me. At times I feel odd with my unclenched mind, like a small fish swimming lazily downstream while all the other fish struggle against the current in an onrushing lemming stampede that stares me in the face.