Lifting the veil and encountering Truth

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Ferry to Vashon Island

You wouldn’t think a 37-square-mile area inhabited by 11,055 people would feel like a small town, but Vashon Island does–especially for someone like Gail Labinski. During her decades as a teacher, she has watched many an islander grow up and fledge.

Circles have been a recurring theme in Gail’s life, She praises and supports an organization of young men on the island called Journeymen, which offers nature-based rites of passage and mentoring for boys within the public schools.

Gail Labinski and Charlie Pieterick

Gail Labinski and Charlie Pieterick on Vashon Island

“At a Journeyman training I witnessed, a group of high school boys modeled a circle for us fishbowl style, with the boys forming a circle within a circle of observers,” says Gail.

“These were kids I knew from first grade on. I carried their stories. I knew their vulnerabilities. I knew everything that hadn’t worked for them all the way through their time in our school district. And here they were, coming in on a weekend to model a circle in which I saw those same vulnerabilities become strengths.

“These young men demonstrated leadership, compassion, openness, and an honesty that was breathtaking. Having cared and advocated for them since they were very young, I finally got to witness something that clearly worked. That circle I witnessed was eye-opening for me.”

After Gail retired, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Fellow Vashon Islander, Charlie Pieterick had also just retired and volunteered to host a healing circle for Gail and her family.

“We sat at the kitchen table with Charli and it was the first time my son talked about it,” Gail says.

“We spend a lot of time turning our faces away from death, but there it was sitting on my kitchen table, a deeply authentic moment for each of us. It was beautiful. That deeper Truth is always there, but there are so many things blocking our view of it as we barrel on in life.” Gail continues.

“The circle gave my family this moment to lift the veil and all be in whatever it was we were in: raw, open, and together. When you have a moment like that, you have an opportunity to transform. I think that’s when transformation occurs: when it’s safe enough, you’re open enough, and it’s important enough to not look away. And the thing is, when you take that opportunity to face the fear, the shift that occurs is nourishing, it lightens the load.”

Gail turned out to be one of the lucky ones. “It’s been five years now, and the numbers continue to look good. Whatever time I’ve got left has to mean something,” she says. Mentored by Charlie, she is now part of a team of four people who cohost a monthly circle in her home.

“In daily life, you don’t always have opportunities to reflect, to look inside, to see who you’ve become,” says Gail. “I believe in circles. I’ve seen the benefits in myself, in my students, and in my community. I’m committed to providing and supporting the circle opportunity in any way I can.”