We Are The Boss

no masters only you the master is you
wonderful no?

—Ikkyū (trans by Stephen Berg)

The past two weeks we’ve been learning life lessons from Zen poet and monk Ikkyū. Two weeks ago we learned we are happy. Last week we learned we are the truth. This week Ikkyū let’s us know we are the boss. We are the boss of us. No one else is.

Today’s poem is simple. Ikkyū first tells us there are no masters, only us. Last week we were told to put aside the books of the masters because we are the truth — not them, nor their books. Today we see that there are in actuality no masters. Let me repeat that. There are no masters. Only me. Only you.

There is no authority. There’s only me. Only you. There’s no teacher. Only me. Only you.

As Zen master Tetto Giko put it:

The truth is never taken from another.
One carries it always by oneself.

There is no truth outside of us. Katsu! (The traditional cry when one achieves enlightenment.) That’s why there are no masters, because in truth there’s nothing to teach. There are people who think they are masters. But they can’t teach you or me anything, because the truth is already inside us. You and I are the masters. No one made us masters. We’ve always been masters. We just never realized we were. And that’s why we let others be the masters.

We aren’t free because we are always looking for some authority to tell us something, or give us permission. We aren’t free because we don’t realize we are the authority we’re looking for. We’re the master we’re searching for.  We are the one to tell us something, to give us permission. We are our own authorities.

Rainer Maria Rilke told the young poet in his first letter to him that we must look deep inside ourselves for the answer. If I want to know if I’m a poet, or a writer, I must find the answer within. No one outside of myself can tell me if I am or not. And that goes with anything, not just writing.

Any authority figure only has authority because we give it to him or her. And it doesn’t matter who that authority figure is. Granted, it may be expedient for me to grant someone temporary authority. But if I grant someone full and complete authority over me, I’ve just made myself a slave.

Ikkyū is telling us we’re the master. Not the slave. We are free. We don’t have to be anyone’s slave: mentally or physically. We don’t have to be in bondage to priests, or ministers, or gurus. We don’t have to be in bondage to governments, or employers. We don’t have to be in bondage to parents, or spouses. We are free. We are the masters.

But with freedom, with being a master, also comes responsibility. And it may be expedient to not always exercise our freedom, to be the master.

Advent is the celebration of God coming to his people to be in them in the New Covenant. In effect, the New Testament writers are saying the same thing as Ikkyū. There are no masters, because I am the master.

If God is for us, who can be against us? And since God is in us, then we ourselves are surely the masters. Truth is in us. Authority is in us. Power is in us.

And that’s why Ikkyū tells us “wonderful no?” Of course it’s wonderful. I’m free from the masters. You’re free from the masters. Because there are no masters. You and I are the masters of ourselves.

May this holiday season be a time of enlightenment for you.

Comments are always welcome, and, until next time, remember — you’re the boss!

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Guest Blog Post by Alice E Keyes

Today I have the privilege of having writer and soon to be author Alice E Keyes as guest blogger. I met Alice on the 8 Sentence Sunday on Dieselpunks forum some time back and then in the Twitterverse and on G+.

I very much enjoy her artistic imagination and how it comes out in her fiction. I look forward to the release of Miss Winsome and the Scientific Society later this year.  And now, here’s Alice!


When CW asked me to do a guest blog for his web page, I wondered what I could possible blog about. My own blog has gone from laborious and naive posts on the writing process to occasional flash fiction and snippets from works-in-progress. When I read CW’s “What’s Cooking?” post, I was inspired to write this blog post.

CW has become a great online writing friend who has been encouraging me to finish a novella, which I started in November 2014. It’s July and I’m a good nitpicky rewrite and line edit away from self-publishing it. He has inspired me from his own self-published books to his recent editing of said novella.

The people online and in person, who have given me eureka writing moments since I began scribbling ideas and scenes in a blank notebook, have been an unforeseen benefit in my pursuit of publishing a book. When I first started writing, I wrote for the creative outlet. I hadn’t painted or drawn in years and my brain begged me to do anything creative. The notebook would come out when I was waiting for my children to finish up an activity or when the idea of doing housework was abhorrent to me. The wacky tidbits were strange, odd, and what I wished I could find in novels being sold.

Noodling around on the Internet and looking at the growing world of self-publishing vs. traditional, I discovered NaNoWriMo which was already three days into the writing month. Yes, I’m another author propelled into writing a complete novel in a mere thirty days or in my case, twenty-seven days. When I finished 50,000 words on November 30, 2009, the joy was indescribable. I actually finished something I started. I thought the premise of my novel was good, but I was unsure of my writing abilities.

Writing in school was tortuous for me. The amount of red corrections on my papers would make me cry. I worked so hard on every essay, story, or poem. I would reread and rewrite to catch the typos and other mistakes. Because of this experience, I sought out ways to have people read what I had written for free. I didn’t ask my husband because he doesn’t read fiction except on rare occasions, nor did I ask friends, because I was too embarrassed my stories might be bad. Really bad. I went to Goodreads and found a couple of beta readers to go over, what I thought were, four carefully edited chapters. Their critiques were a rude awakening and made me realize I had a lot of work to do.

There are countless blogs telling you to not publish before you have had your manuscript read by an unbiased editor and to have that done after each rewrite and then finally have a line editor go over it for the typos, grammar, and misspellings. I couldn’t afford the editor’s prices for these services, so I started to post chapter by chapter on Critique Circle. This started to improve my writing and I had little eureka moments, but comments like, “it needs more emotion,” or “you have a lot of awkward sentences” confused me. I put chapters through edit programs and I had a few more eureka moments. My writing improved and the critiques I received at Critique Circle also improved.

Along the way, I met other writers struggling to improve their work. CW was one and when he asked if he could edit, Miss Winsome and the Scientific Society, I was nervous. He had become my friend and I had read a couple of his novels. What if it was another critique telling me my writing abilities were sophomoric or worse that he would wonder why he had spent his valuable time on such bad work? His edit was thorough and explained why trying to use third person point of view wasn’t working and then gave detailed instructions on how to change the problem. His edit was the most helpful I had ever received even above “professional” editors who would look at a few chapters for free to see if you wanted their services. I had another eureka writing moment.

I now feel that my first self-published book won’t be a sophomoric self-published effort, but something that might have a chance in the saturated indie book market. My slow and steady education on writing a novel has been fraught with disappointment, but the friendships I have made along the way will keep me motivated to find the next writing eureka moment and push me to achieve the goal of becoming a self-published author.

My advise on the need to getting your work edited before you publish is you don’t have to find a professional and expensive editor. The editor you need is someone with an understanding of grammar and an understanding of what makes a novel an enjoyable read. That person can be a spouse, a sister, or friend but never someone who belittles your efforts, tells you everything is great, or gives you vague, unexplained critiques.


What Alice is saying was said by the great German poet Rainer Maria Rilke over a hundred years ago to a fledgling poet. Once you’ve decided you can do nothing but write, then structure your world so that is what you can do. The importance of supportive people, who will give you honest appraisals cannot be overestimated. Neither can our listening to the advice these people give us.

Thanks, Alice! Looking forward to the release of Miss Winsome and the Scientific Society.

And now here is little bit about Alice herself:

Alice E Keyes will be publishing her debut novella in 2015. Yellowstone National Park is the location for the steampunk dime store novella and has played an important part in her life. Her mother spotted a cowboy there and decided he was the one. Alice graduated from Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana and she now lives in Cody, Wyoming, both of which are a mere hour’s drive to the first national park. Though she has left the Rockies, once to student teach in England and once to meet her husband in Maryland, their mountains, streams, and towns call her back. She lives four blocks from public land where her favorite mountain biking trails are located. Besides biking and writing, she spends her time with her husband, son, daughter and two Britney dogs.

Connect with Alice at the following places:




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