The pandemic emphasized what Cynthia Breadner knew in her heart: "To build a spiritual community, we need to come out of isolation."
The grief counsellor and spiritual advisor has published a book, In Stillness, which is a collection of spiritual columns published throughout the pandemic, focusing on loss, grieving, hope and growth.
"It feels good, it's a bit surreal," she said about her work. "I am proud of it."
Breadner started writing during the pandemic as a way to help people get through their feelings of loss and grief throughout isolation and lockdown. She offers specialized care in spiritually integrated therapies and also works as a long-term care chaplain assisting with end-of-life care for clients and families.
While she said she did not set out to write a book, the "compilation came to life on its own."
"Life is what we make it and in making it, we write our story.”
For more than 20 years, Breadner was formally engaged in the Christian community, however, the book is not religion-based, but rather spiritual in nature.
"Spirituality is a connection to that which creates meaning and purpose. Spirituality is the witness of human existence that the soul contemplates and takes back to wherever it came from after the experience is over," she said.
“We have spent so much time building a religious community, that we have lost track of divine source which is the root of our heart and soul," she said. "The very grounding of relationship begins with our connection to source, that which breathed life into us grows our fingernails and inspires the birds to sing. The very grounding of relationship to the divine comes from stories, storytelling of our experiences, sharing of our lives together and, a relationship is formed through paying attention to living.”
In her work with the dying, she has realized in the later years, people often mourn about not making the most of their time.
"The isolation of the past two years has shown us that we need each other in the flesh, in community and in gathering to go forth with purpose and meaning. Like a child who must gorge themselves on candy to the point of sickness in order to let it go, we have been steeped in online connection ad nauseam and it is time to get back to local, in-person, community. It is time we realized that while online connection is here to stay, there is merit in holding on to our humble beginnings of the pioneers and builders of our towns."
She calls the book a "meaning-making textbook" to be studied, and find similarities in others' lives.
"It is witness to a life being lived well while using the poor choices and regrets as a springboard to better days," she said. "We aren't human doings, we are human beings, here to be present each day so that our spirit is able to experience a human existence."
One day, Breadner hopes to build a spiritual community in Bradford for people to connect on a deeper level.
"We need to learn to rebuild our spiritual connections," she said. "My book is 52 chapters of my exploration into spirituality and what it means to be spiritually connected to people in your life, to nature or to your practice. And to build a spiritual community, we need to come out of isolation."
In Stillness is available to purchase online at Friesenpress, Amazon and Indigo, as well as in-store at Bradford health food shop Nancy's Nifty Nook.