Warnings to the public to prepare rooms that could be sealed in case of chemical or biological attack have been followed by debate over the effectiveness of such measures and counter warnings not to overreact or panic. Some observers have commented that, for the average citizen, being mentally prepared for challenges that may come is more important than taking physical precautions.
That raises the question of how a person can prepare mentally for possible danger. One way is to learn from the examples of people who have confronted great threats with courage and intelligence. For example, within the massive chronicle of Stalinist-era atrocities in Alexander Solzhenitsyn's "Gulag Archipelago" are a few brief accounts of people who were unintimidated even in the face of the most brutal treatment.
Solzhenitsyn relates how their mental freedom and calm caused their oppressors to back down. He attributes their courage to their ability to transcend a merely personal and physical concept of themselves. They had grasped, he says, that the essence of their lives was their spirit and their conscience.
Solzhenitsyn doesn't underestimate the self-renunciation necessary to achieve this clarity of thought and peace of mind. But he argues convincingly that surrender to one's essential and inviolable identity is the only way to break the grip of fear. Examples like this point to the kind of mental preparation anyone can make use of when threatened. Grasping the reality of spiritual existence, even in a small degree, lessens fear.
Finding the 'secret place'
One might say that the purpose of spiritual practice is to find this "safe room" of spiritual consciousness. The 91st Psalm in the Bible refers to dwelling "in the secret place of the most High," where no plague can enter. A Taoist scripture coincides: "The sage hides himself in Heaven - hence there is nothing that can do him harm" (Chuang Tzu 19).
There is so much powerful spiritual teaching to help one find this place of safety. A text that I come back to often is from a sermon by the Monitor's founder, Mary Baker Eddy. It includes this line: "The real house in which 'we live, and move, and have our being' is Spirit, God, the eternal harmony of infinite Soul" ("Pulpit and Press," pg. 2). I try to think through that concept as often as I can during the day, and if I waken at night.
Given the entrenchment of the view that life is material, we need to make a persistent effort to hold to the idea of life in Spirit. Mrs. Eddy referred to this need in the sentence that follows the one just quoted: "The enemy we confront would overthrow this sublime fortress, and it behooves us to defend our heritage."
Who is the enemy?
Her reference to the "enemy" has been a great clarifier for me. The idea of an enemy always carries with it the feeling that some person or thing can hurt me or someone else. But this text reminds me that the enemy to defend myself from is a mistaken concept of life - the materialism that denies the power or reality of Spirit.
When there's so much talk about evil people and destructive weapons, it's important to keep in mind that the real enemy of humankind is the concept that life is bound to matter. Staying mindful that we live in Spirit cuts through fear. It helps people hear the direction of divine intelligence that is always present.
During the most challenging times in my life, words of spiritual truth have been constant companions - support with which to breathe and walk and eat - words that kept me going from one hour to the next, when I didn't feel confident or even hopeful while I was thinking them. Jesus said that his words are spirit and life. Hang on to the words of life no matter what. Their truth forms your safe room.
The kingdom of God within
Mary Baker Eddy's sermon recorded in Pulpit and Press also cites Jesus' statement that "the kingdom of God" (another way to describe the safe room of divine consciousness) is "within you." She commented on this: "Know, then, that you possess sovereign power to think and act rightly, and that nothing can dispossess you of this heritage and trespass on Love" (pg. 3).
This statement is a universal prayer. Because each individual is the manifestation of God, everyone has the power to think and act in accord with God. Conscience is innate and unlosable. No fear, anger, lust for power, self-righteousness, hurt, pride, or misinformation can dispossess anyone of his or her heritage of Godlikeness. Every leader of every nation, every diplomat, citizen, soldier, policeman, firefighter, and hospital worker has power from the divine Mind to think and act wisely and justly. This injunction to know our power to "think and act rightly" also says to me that the "safe room" of spiritual consciousness isn't something we have to try to get into. Each of us is in a safe room, wherever we are.