A week ago I was invited to join in a worldwide meditation on behalf of the elephants in Africa, which are under renewed threat of extinction. Ordinarily I am resistant to vigils, meditations, and “sending light,” because it feels like a cop-out, a substitute for doing something. There is something obviously wrong with the attitude, “I won’t do anything to help you, but I will hold you in the light.” And if I am unwilling or unable to do something, I think it is better to face that truth than to imagine I have acted by merely sitting there.
Yet I also understand the despair so many people feel as we survey the depredations of the planet-wrecking machine, and our seeming helplessness to stop it. Meditating on behalf of the elephants can be a salve for that despair – but does it actually help the elephants, or only help us feel better? Despite my resistance, I think it can actually help the elephants: not as a substitute for action, but as a declaration to the universe of a willingness to act. A meditation can say, “I want to do something but I don’t know what. Give me a way.”