Open Circle Ajijic History by Rachel McMillen

Change is a constant in our lives. That’s a maxim we have all become more aware of as COVID-19 has infiltrated into every area of our lives, but exactly what changes there will be as we slowly emerge from our respective havens are still a matter of conjecture.


Here at Lakeside, one of those changes will be Open Circle, although it will not be the first time this popular event has changed. First organized in 1995 by Joan and Roy Forman as New Dimensions, it was held in their home every Sunday morning and emphasized spirituality and various aspects of Buddhism, Sufism and Christianity. Then, in 2001, it changed its name to Open Circle and moved to other homes and restaurants.


Shortly thereafter Marianne and Michael Warren approached LCS to see if the organization could utilize the patio area and a rental agreement was drawn up.


For several years Marianne Warren, Hilary Stewardson, Derek Firth and Jim Spivey coordinated the weekly programs until, in 2011, Jim Spivey assumed total responsibility for the event. In 2015, when poor health dictated he could no longer continue, things changed again and Jim passed the reins over to David Bryen and Margaret van Every, both regular attendees and supporters.

David and Margaret have long been part of the fabric of Lakeside, both being published writers and Margaret also an accomplished musician, and they wanted to free the event from the restrictive rules it operated under and open it up to the community. In order to do this, they immediately established the Open Circle Steering Committee and asked for volunteers.


They also asked for input from the Open Circle audience, which resulted in the original spiritual/metaphysical focus of the program expanding to include more art, music, science, psychology, natural history, health, and Mexican history. The result was obvious and has proved both satisfying and rewarding for both of them. Last year more than 13,000 people came to OC, the highest number being 550 for a presentation by David Truly in February.


Another success in 2019 was the Mexican Grace program for which nine members of the OC audience pre-auditioned and subsequently presented a 5-minute story of moments when they experienced an example of Mexican Grace. The program’s highlight was when a group of Mexican senior citizens in full traditional regalia danced for the attendees, who in turn lifted Tequila-filled shot glasses and toasted Mexico.


Open Circle, the largest and longest-running expat program in Mexico, with a reputation that has spread far beyond Jalisco, was the first to suspend its activities when COVID-19 arrived, realizing the physical characteristics of the meeting area would not allow for the safe distancing required to protect those participating.


With the respite that decision brought, both David and Margaret decided it was time to pass the torch yet again, and the Steering Committee in turn realized that it was time to find a new organization to carry the event forward. So it is that LCS, the leading support organization for both Expats and the Lakeside community in general, which has spent these past few months re-evaluating its own programs and re-designing the campus to better accommodate classes, presentations and meetings, will include Open Circle under its umbrella when its doors re-open.


Both the board of LCS and Steve Balfour, the Executive Director, are grateful for the work the steering committee has done and are looking forward to continuing the tradition of Open Circle and maintaining both the spirit and the energy that has made this weekly event such a unique and quality forum.

NOTE: There is a plaque commemorating Marianne Warren in the ground near the Ken Gosh Pavilion. Not only was she instrumental in getting Open Circle started, she also organized and gave lectures, including the Neill James lecture series.

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