Tibet House Flipside Book Talk "Route 66"

For those of you who couldn't make it - here it is.



Thoughts on Robin Williams

I met Robin once.  It was over dinner at a friend's house, and I was at a table with him and Charles Grodin.  He was gracious and friendly, and for some reason took the opportunity for polite chatting, rather than flights of fancy.  I didn't get a chance to tell him that I had also been in the Harvey Lembeck comedy workshop for a number of years, and had heard of his legendary performances in class.  That I too was a huge fan of Jonathan Winters, and that I'd had the good fortune to spend a number of lunches with him as his favorite table at Musso & Frank's restaurant in Hollywood.

That I had once asked Jonathan a question about his father, and how that had sent him into a flight of fancy that took us to the revolutionary war, and fighting with indians, but then realizing we were on the wrong side... but being aware of his difficulties with his Marine corps dad, I knew that the reason we'd gone down this path was because his father was a trigger for him in some ways - that to avoid discussing something of great pain for him, he went into a place of great comedy - so when he was done with 45 minutes of this amazing improvisation, I was able to pick up the sentence we had begun with.  "So I take it you don't want to discuss your dad?"  To which he roared with laughter.

Robin Williams knew how to roar with laughter.  David Letterman ran a tribute to him the other day, where Robin was frequently throwing his head back, roaring like a lion with laughter - David had said something that allowed him to release that laugh - which included a kick back of the head, chin pointed skyward, his legs stretched out - literally roaring with comic gesture.

I read that his friend Rob Schneider raised his voice against the drug he was using to treat his Parkinson's - one of the side effects is suicide.  It's a flag that needs to be raised, because someone so near and dear to the planet, could be given a lethal dose of something that was meant to help him.  And I say lethal because we don't know what the drug was that was given to him - he had a history of depression - and was likely given a myriad of drugs to help with that as well.

I'm told by a doctor friend of mine that there is a simple test for determining whether a person can handle SSRI drugs.  That's seratonin inhibitor drugs - black box warning drugs - the kinds that are commonly prescribed to everyone.  I'm told by this doctor that up to 15% of the population is allergic to these drugs, and the side effect is either suicide, or killing someone else.  Their brains are literally taken over by the drug, morality disappears, and the "flight or fight" trigger turns into a literal trigger.

Congress held hearings on these drugs in the 90's because they were being prescribed for everything from exhaustion to depression - and the results were about 10% of the people were killing themselves.  Every single mass shooting since Columbine has had these drugs involved in the shooter - either in the past, or currently.

So what was the drug that Robin Williams was on? It's not been published. Of course if it was a safe drug, you'd think they'd publish that.

I point everyone to the institute of mental health's own webpage, where they posted a warning that medical professionals were prescribing psychotropic (SSRI) drugs to children that hadn't been tested. That they didn't recommend prescribing them to any one under 25.  I found this posting while doing a casual search - but it had been taken down, it was cached.

The argument goes like this; "well, he was depressed, so we don't know if the depression caused suicide."  Or "The shooter was being treated for depression - so we don't know if depression caused this senseless shooting."  Meanwhile - these drugs are being marketed on TV nightly - they read the side effects while showing images of people riding bikes happily - they should be forced to show the real effects of their drugs without trials.  I won't get into that graphic.

We know that drugs have helped many people.  Many have written to me saying "they wouldn't be alive without the SSRI drugs" they've been prescribed.  Okay, that's fine - but what about the 15% who could have learned they were allergic to these drugs?  What do we tell their families?

I encourage everyone who is thinking of taking a drug to really, really read the side effects carefully.  Read the studies they did to get approved - they're online.  Read what others have done with these drugs - get a second opinion.  Consider alternate therapy.  What happens when these drugs change the "fight or flight" trigger in the amygdala is to cause a person to think nonstop about doing themself in.  And after days or weeks of that, they often succeed - or pick up a weapon and find another way to release that energy.

Finally, look into Tonglen.  Prof. Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin has proven that tonglen can "alleviate or cure depression" in his monumental study of meditation.  He's proven in a scientific way that meditation can change the shape of the amygdala.  So depression is not a death sentence - it's a clarion call that something is wrong - either in the person's environment, either in their diet, either in where they live, who they live with - something is causing the depressions.  It's not there normally - and even if it's genetic, it can still be dealt with.  "One sessions of meditation can change the shape of the amygdala."  It's worth checking into.

And in terms of Parkinson's - I have a close friend with a serious case of Parkinson's.  It's altered her life immeasurably.  But I filmed her during a deep hypnosis session where she examined her subconscious as to why and how she got Parkinson's - and saw the answers.  She understood what had happened mentally that cause her physically to get sick.  And during the 6 hour session she had no Parkinson's.  Her shaking went away and she was basically speaking and talking normally during the session.  The hypnotherapist pointed it out to me as he looked over his shoulder and said "look!"  Her profound shaking had stopped, except for one finger that was curling softly as she spoke.  When she came back to consciousness, all her symptoms returned.  She can't drive, so I drove her to the session.

So if Parkinson's can be changed or eliminated during a hypnosis session, is it possible to find a way to continue that process?  And if Robin Williams was given the alternative - to do a hypnotherapy session every day of his life if need be - wouldn't that be something he'd like to have a choice of?

I urge everyone to take Robin's death not as an example of someone who is depressed who did themselves in, but as someone who gave us something to learn from.

But he's not dead.  He's just not here.

Suicide is a tricky subject. I can only weigh in on the Flipside research. We all choose to come to the planet to learn and teach lessons; we are not here by mistake or happenstance. Each has their own path and journey, each has a myriad of reasons how they choose to experience the journey here or for exiting the stage.

Once we wrap our minds around the fact that we don't die, or in this case can't die, then the matter of our leaving the stage is one of logistics. Do we judge an entire life or performance on how an actor leaves the stage?

"Yes, I loved the play, the first and second act were great, but you tripped as you came off stage and that I cannot forgive. Two thumbs way down." We tend to write reviews on how an actor exits: "A belt, a plastic bag, a box of pills" and ignore those who are checking themselves out with each cigarette, each shot of whisky, each time they drink and drive and/or text. Are they any less "guilty" of choosing the manner of their death than others just because it happens to be a slow lingering exit?

We applaud those who managed to stay on stage til the last breath, surrounded by loved ones, whether its Betty Bacall or the world's oldest man, and wag our fingers at deaths we don't applaud, whether Robin or a child in a wedding party taken out by a drone. We've all got a myriad of exits and entrances behind us, and ahead of us - suffice to say its up to us how we manage them.

Again, the research shows that we don't die. That each life is a sacred, precious choice, that we come here to learn and teach and love for many reasons, and the manner of our passing has roots in our own path and journey. Robin is ok, he's fine, he hasn't gone anywhere - he's just not here or visible to us. And that's a damned shame because he lit up the stage, made the entire planet stand laugh, and there's nothing more healing than laughter.

I have compassion for those who suffer from debilitating depression, and hope they examine methods like tonglen to regain their health, and I bow to their choice of choosing a difficult life that includes stones in their path. As I also stand in applause for Robin's choice to share his wit and charm with the planet during the time he was onstage. Why he exited in the middle of the second act is only known to him. Perhaps that plot twist will be revealed one day as well. My two cents."

And finally one more story - also true:

I was in a bodega in NY helping the owner speak to a family from Spain. After I asked where he was from. He said Nepal. I told him the quick story about our son remembering a life as a monk in Nepal, how it was his 1st sentence to me. As I was telling him some of the stories which verified his sentence, which was something beyond my understanding, the owner asked if he could see a picture of him.

I showed him a pic of the 9 yeard old smiling on a couch. The shopkeeper closed his eyes and said a prayer, moving his hand from his heart to his lips to his forehead. He then looked at the photo and said "you can see it In his face; serenity."

I then realized the man was weeping, tears rolling down his cheeks. The shop owner wiped his tears and said "thank you. That was very powerful."

I told him the story our son once told us - when I sat him down to tell him his grandmother was going to pass away, and to prepare him for her funeral I said the next time he saw her she'd be in a box.

He picked up a bottle of water and said "its ok dad, spirit is like water. Watch." He took the bottle and threw it on the floor, stomped on it until the bottle was crushed and broken. Then he picked it up and showed it to me - the bottle was half full and the cap was on but the outside was crushed beyond recognition. He said "you see dad? The water is ok."

Our bodies may get crushed and old and broken, we may do things to them and check out early - but the spirit, like water, will always be ok. Our loved ones, no matter how they leave the planet, will always be okay."

The water is always ok.

photo courtesy Rita Wilson, all rights reserved

Here's a foto Rita Wilson posted of her last dinner with Robin and her husband Tom.  Robin in Pacet! RIP

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