The death of Robin Williams on August 11 has affected me deeply as well as millions of others who loved and admired him world-wide. Although I never met Robin, I feel like I have lost a personal friend. This living archetype of lightness, exuberance, joy, and play has been taken from us.
When someone we care about leaves our lives through suicide, it’s natural to feel a sense of powerlessness and even betrayal. I imagine these feelings are the source of some of the unkind things that people have written about the way in which Robin choose to bring his life to a close.
But don’t include me in that group. I do feel sadness and grief, but I also feel empowered by Robin’s life and example. His life’s work is this wonderful affirmation of life as he reflects back the joy, grace, beauty, complexity, absurdity, and challenge of the human condition.
Robin’s death by suicide is not a happy story. At the end of his life, he had a mental health falldown with severe depression. I imagine he saw the Parkinson’s diagnosis as something that would eventually take away what he loved to do.
We watch in amazement at the energy level that he brought to every stand-up performance and at the depth of emotion he evokes with every dramatic role. It is astounding that he was able to maintain his emotional and physical health for as long as he did and as well as he did.
At least some of his work was an impressive demonstration of channeling as he let energies flow through him all the while keeping the tone of gentleness and kindness that was his nature.
We lose sight of the shadow side of genius. We see great people through the lens of their achievements and we fail to acknowledge the price a great gift exacts in terms of imbalances it creates in other areas of life.
With Robin no longer with us, there is an opportunity to look at his life’s work at a whole and appreciate it as never before. I see this as a celebration of the beauty and wonder of being alive.
In Robin’s case the teaching is greater than the teacher. In addition to being inspired by his positive example of lightness and love, I am also empowered by the manner of his death.
In choosing to end his life through suicide, this is for me a negative role model that can help me gain perspective on my personal challenges.
How this works is seeing someone else choices lead to outcomes that are not what I want. Then I have a strong motivation to find a different path. For example, both of my parents were alcoholics.
From their behavior I saw that I want to have some other outcome in my life. So, I choose a drug free life and by mid life gave up drinking alcohol in all forms.
I’ve never had drug and alcohol issues in my life and, although I have times of unhappiness and sadness, I’m not subject to deep depression. Suicide is somewhat difficult for me to envision as a life choice since I see it as murdering oneself and I’m committed to nonviolence.
Robin got to a point where he was apparently unable to embrace life. And, although I’m probably going to stick around no matter what, I have same issue in a slightly different form.
There have been many times when rather than affirming life in the fullness of whatever thoughts, feelings, and emotions are present, I have numbed myself out. In addition to substance addiction, there is also process addiction. I have struggled with this all my life. In process addiction you kill the fullness of the moment.
My preferred forms of process addiction have been through sleep and self-hypnosis. By sleeping longer than you need or lying in bed after awakening without getting up, you can go into a lethargic state where feelings and emotions are muted.
Similarly, self-hypnosis can be a wonderful way to regenerate energy by total relaxation for up to an hour. But, if you feel asleep in it, or go well past the hour, there is again lethargy and numbness.
I’ve made great strides in overcoming this behavior in the last year or so and I want to go to the point where it is no longer a factor in my life. Then I can manifest my full potential of being alive in every moment and fully experience whatever thoughts, feelings, and emotions are happening in my energetic field.
My pathway of healing is through the application of the compassionate witness. Through witnessing my process, I can gain perspective and live from choice rather than reflex.
Robin is that icon that calls me back to the witness. His compassion is legendary as reflected in his kindness and generosity to so many. He is also the amused witness of the human condition and we need that as well. We need some faculty that can see our challenges in sufficient perspective to appreciate the humor in it.
No matter how many people love and respect you, if you get to place where you can’t love yourself, you’re in deep trouble. There is a propaganda war happening with the mind. Negative and sometimes toxic thoughts compete for our attention with loving and positive elements.
If you don’t have an active program of countering this negativity with affirmations and appreciation, you can lose the war and then maybe even your life.
May I bring my affirmations to bear in every moment of confusion and uncertainty.
I love myself as I am in this moment. I love my process as it is in this moment. I rejoice in being one with all of who I am. I rejoice in the challenge of this moment. I am one with my personal power as it is in this moment. I love myself in the limitations that I experience in this moment. I stand in the ungroundedness and strive from Grace in this moment.
Thanks Robin, you compassionate amused witness, for inspiring me to write this and to let go of a little bit of my fear of being seen.