Robin William’s Last Gift- by Peter Coyote


“The only thing that never changes is change itself. All things are impermanent.” ~ Buddha

Peter Coyote, a Zen Buddhist Priest, wrote a lovely letter to help others find peace in how Robin Williams chose to end his life.  I found it on Facebook and feel it’s important to share, so I am posting it on my blog (see below).   I hope it helps you  shift any perceptions on such a heavy topic.  I have mixed feelings on what is going on and part of me feels Robin’s calling for leaving is as big as his life was.  He battled with what so many of us have battled with.  Our mind, our thoughts of suffering and how helpless we fall victim to them.  When we are isolated in our suffering, or have some kind of mental illness, our minds strength to just “reach out” for help is often not a realistic possibility for some.  Is it possible to change it?  I believe it is, with the right mix of helpers, prayers, and outreach.   Will everyone have success?,  possibility not, but without starting or trying, how would we know.  And how does one start?  How does one bypass the shame or the fears in reaching out?  Or even know they have something “wrong that needs fixing”.  As long as society thinks that those who have some kind of “mental illness” is different from them, there will always be this “hands off or hands out of reach” approach.

I do not have a labeled “mental illness” and yet, for me, my thoughts of depression or suffering of my mind have been probably as debilitating as some.  My fears to reach out and stay isolated are real and are my choices are based out of fear at times.  However, I know to ask if what I’m thinking is the “collective energy” around me.  Are they really “my thoughts”?  Or because I am so empathic, are they the collective?  There is a movie called “Wings of Desire”,  a German film where these 2 angels can hear everyone’s thoughts.  It’s a buzz of energy that has to be drowned out or one would go crazy.  Learning to discern what’s ours and others is a valuable lesson to learn.  Separating out what’s “my business” or “someone else’s business” is also necessary for an empath.

I have had suicidal thoughts in my past and I have also had profound Buddhist teachings about the mind and what happens to the mind when we die.  I reflect on these because it’s important to me to know how to face my  fears.  If looking at my mind causes so much fear, pain and suffering, then there is more work to be done.  No judgment, no finger-pointing, just awareness that there are layers wanting to be peeled away.  I have also experienced profound inner peace.  It’s the same mind that experiences the same kind of suffering.  This brings freedom of choices.  The choices of how I want to live in my mind.  And if I choose inner peace, then I can declare peace and find ways to start seeing it around me and bringing it in and toward me as opposed to living in my suffering.  However, that does require effort on my end.  Effort to make daily choices of how I want to think and live.  Effort to be present.  Effort to know what choices I want.  It may not seem like a big deal, but it is.

When awareness begins to take charge of our thoughts, new perceptions begin to take place.  AND they are instantaneous, not “let’s wait and see” but immediate.  This is valuable information to the suffering mind.  Looking for ways to get out of our suffering is as old as man itself.  That’s why people overeat, drink, smoke, gamble, watch tv, do video games, etc….  Everything that can distract the mind, and numb us out of our feelings are many ways to not deal with our suffering.  Unfortunately disconnecting is also not an answer, it creates many more problems.  How is it that we can live in our bodies, our minds and find inner and outer peace without looking for outside fixes?   It all starts with our thoughts, our intentions and our desires for how we want to live.  Let’s learn from Robin Williams last gift as to how we choose to live.  May you rest in Peace Robin.  You have been loved by millions. I honor you and your path and your choices.


Robin William’s Last Gift- Peter Coyote

Robin and I were friends. Not intimate, because he was very shy when he was not performing. Still, I spent many birthdays and holidays at his home with Marsha and the children, and he showed up at my 70th birthday to say “Hello” and wound up mesmerizing my relatives with a fifteen minute set that pulverized the audience.

When I heard that he had died, I put my own sorrow aside for a later time. I’m a Zen Buddhist priest and my vows instruct me to try to help others. So this little letter is meant in that spirit.

Normally when you are gifted with a huge talent of some kind, it’s like having a magnificent bicep. People will say, “Wow, that’s fantastic” and they tell you, truthfully, that it can change your life, take you to unimaginable realms. It can and often does. The Zen perspective is a little different. We might say, “Well, that’s a great bicep, you don’t have to do anything to it. Let’s work at bringing the rest of your body up to that level.”

Robin’s gift could be likened to fastest thoroughbred race-horse on earth. It had unbeatable endurance, nimbleness, and a huge heart. However, it had never been fully trained. Sometimes Robin would ride it like a kayaker tearing down white-water, skimming on the edge of control. We would marvel at his courage, his daring, and his brilliance. But at other times, the horse went where he wanted, and Robin could only hang on for dear life.

In the final analysis, what failed Robin was his greatest gift—his imagination. Clutching the horse he could no longer think of a single thing to do to change his life or make himself feel better, and he stepped off the edge of the saddle. Had the horse been trained, it might have reminded him that there is always something we can do. We can take a walk until the feeling passes. We can find someone else suffering and help them, taking the attention off our own. Or, finally, we can learn to muster our courage and simply sit still with what we are thinking are insoluble problems, becoming as intimate with them as we can, facing them until we get over our fear. They may even be insoluble, but that does not mean that there is nothing we can do.

Our great-hearted friend will be back as the rain, as the cry of a Raven as the wind. He, you and I have never for one moment not been a part of all it. But we would be doing his life and memory a dis-service if we did not extract some wisdom from his choice, which, if we ponder deeply enough, will turn out to be his last gift. He would beg us to pay attention if he could.


5 thoughts on “Robin William’s Last Gift- by Peter Coyote

  1. Thank you for this amazing “Gift” Robin… and Peter. In recent weeks I have considered ‘stepping off the saddle’, thinking my Life insoluble and not being able to make myself feel better. When I heard of Robin’s suicide I thought to myself “Not him, he had so much to give, he was so talented and loved, etc.. ” Then I recalled how I had been feeling just days earlier and I knew what he was feeling at the very same time, less than 100 miles away. I felt,then, a bond to him I shall never forget. I will choose to have his Life and long struggle with Depression encourage me to continue to face this head on and find peace within. I’m a three times divorced, self-employed woman who raised three sons by myself. I can do this! I just today made plans to go the Northern California Coast and Redwoods for my 65th birthday over this Labor Day Weekend, with my 17 year old grand-daughter. I was going to stay home, alone. And I don’t think I would have survived. Today, I met with my psychologist and spoke to my psychiatrist about changing medications. Robin saved my Life. I will look for his presence and his peace around me at the ocean or in the forest. We will talk. Thank you for your Gift. I AM paying attention.

  2. Wanda, thank you for your genuine words. It is a profound gift to recognize. I am ver grateful that this letter graced you as well as many others. Your life is worth saving. Enjoy your trip and may grace continue to live inside of you.

  3. Life is worth to live no matter what are the circumstances. If we connect with the Light that we are within our heart. God Bless!
    Offered with Love,

  4. Oh Shakti, my Shakti (To quote a line from a Robin Williams movie, “Oh Captain, my Captain”),

    I am currently down from a manic phase. I “suffer” from what the western world calls Bi-polar, type I. The meds I am on, not but 4 days now, have brought everything to an abrupt and screeching halt. And yet, I awake today with a renewed sense of purpose and focus. Like you, I am hyper-empathic and that is the true source for my “Bi-polar.” A more appropriate diagnosis would be to call it a “non-physical allergic reaction to my environment.”

    I feel the “collective” wanting to “put me down” so that I no longer behave non “normally.” Robin Williams life was and is an inspiration to me. Not long ago, I posted a poem of mine in honor of all Father figures in this world. It paints the perfect picture of the kinds of collective energies I have been contending with in order to reach states of consistent peace, vitality, and most of all—tapping into my Inner Self. I wrote this poem not long after my 3rd manic episode. I didn’t give up back then and especially won’t now. Thank you Shakti for the Journey you have embarked on and shared with Us All! It’s been truly eye-opening to keep up with as you progress. We all deserve to exist, live, thrive, and contribute to the entire Collective we find ourselves in….no exceptions.

    And so, while I am grappling with the response the Collective has posed to me after my stint of “mania,” this is my “rebuttal” in poetry form…..Enjoy and Mille Grazie:

    Father Sky, Eagle Son

    The sky he calls to me.
    He says, “Set your sights Heaven-bound,
    for that is where you belong, my son.”
    I would heed his voice if only if only

    If only the world didn’t cage me in
    I would fly to endless heights.
    If only the world didn’t doubt me so
    I would inspire a million souls.
    If only the world didn’t depress me so
    I would lift it high upon my back.
    If only

    “If only if only you wouldn’t say if only
    For there is not a time nor place
    Where dreams are not in Heaven.
    There is room for you in the sky
    Room for you to spread your wings and fly.”

    But if only I just knew how to fly
    There would be no ifs ands or buts
    If only I knew how to see
    I would navigate the skies a perfect 10
    If only I just knew mySelf.
    My fears would fall forever away.
    If only

    “Truly I say to thee, my mighty little eagle.
    You but wait for yourSelf
    Just as the Sun stands revealed
    When the clouds part
    So too does your Glory stand revealed
    When your fears fall forever away.”


  5. Simon, that was beautiful. I felt the “if only” as if they were mine. These non physical allergic reactions are the mind. It’s terrible when no one “gets it”. I get it. I also understand how much the environment plays havoc on these changes. The seasonal transitions and I also feel bi-polar is a direct experience with the environment of the 5 elements meeting the 5 elements within the body. When the 2 are balanced (outer and inner) then we are balanced. When we move opposite to the outer from the inner (meaning the seasons are not supporting us or our diet has to change with the seasons) then we are off kilter. I use a Tibetan Doctor seasonally and I have a very fall/winter diet and a spring/summer diet. If I don’t eat proper in the spring/summer it leads to depression in the winter. IT’s SO subtle and yet, it will lead me down the wrong road.
    I have had so many brilliant conversations with friends since Robin’s passing and quote after quote keep coming out of me. I intend on posting what is emerging. If you haven’t seen my website please do. There are many things to read and you most likely will enjoy it.

    Thank you for sharing honestly and authentically. I honor your path and you are loved.


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