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💍 A Curious Engagement Story
Saying "yes" after 15 days of meditation, contemplating death and living in absolute darkness. As one does.
This engagement story includes some of the classics of a beautiful engagement — a beach, sunrise, 50 red roses🌹, soft music, tears, kisses, and a hearty “YES.” It also includes some unique additions that make it most undoubtedly our unique engagement — a meditation on death, walking down a path blindfolded after being isolated in a pitch-black room for 5 days, a meowing and confused kitten, rings for both of us, and a prayer.
My hope is that this story doesn’t just make you go “aww, I’m so happy for them”…but that it pulls you deeper into the wellspring of your own heart and the profound moments that make meaning of your life. Or, as Jonny and I like to see them, the moments that stop you in your tracks with an overwhelming sense of wonder and awe that cause you to pause and say, “what is life!?”
On December 14, 2020, we had one of these moments.
Our engagement on this day was the culminating event of a 6-week heart-expanding sprint. The truth is, two months ago, we had been going through a bumpy patch within our relationship and were considering spending some time apart. Navigating this patch with open-hearted compassion catapulted us into new territories of love— specifically loving ourselves and loving someone else during times of difficulty, confusion, and uncertainty.
As a relationship success story of COVID-19, we had become intimately familiar with love in times of uncertainty.
Jonny and I officially began our relationship on January 27, 2020 and spent the entire pandemic getting to know each other quickly, intensely, and deeply. When the world seemed to hit a hard stop, we moved at the speed of light. Going from the snowy mountains of Lake Tahoe to the quiet backwoods of Boulder, Colorado, and unexpectedly to the Oaxacan coast of Mexico where we have now been for 6 months (I thought it would be 6 weeks).
In under one year, we have become the closest of friends, co-conspirators of life, and deeply committed partners at an intensity that our nervous systems were not entirely prepared for. Yet if there’s anything that Jonny and I excel at with one another it’s leaning into the discomforts of growth and allowing the other to see us in our raw authenticity.
These qualities (and many more) are why he and I are getting married on December 27, 2020. An exact 11 months after our official beginning.
And although I would love to share with you the full story of these 11 months and our blossoming digital friendship during the year that preceded them, I will focus this story on the magic surrounding our engagement. Told from the perspective of the soon-to-be Mrs. Kelly Wilde-Miller* 🦋
*For those who don’t know, I decided to change my last name from Benson to Wilde a few months ago, which will soon become Wilde-Miller :)
It began by pondering death…
From November 20–30, Jonny and I attended a 10-day silent meditation retreat at Hridaya Yoga, a meditation center in Mazunte, Mexico. For ten days, we meditated between 4–6 hours per day, absorbed the teachings of various spiritual and mystical traditions, lost ourselves in the poetry of Rilke and Rumi, and learned how to rest our attention in our hearts instead of our busy minds.
The container was intentionally set for us to disconnect from our conditioned personalities, dive below the turbulence of our thoughts, and allow our hearts to open to the infinite beauty and love that is always available.
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” — Rumi
It was an incredibly life-altering experience for us both and although we didn’t speak, touch or look at each other for ten days (except for a few cheeky glances), it brought us profoundly closer together.
By the final day of the retreat, our hearts were completely open. The stage had been set for our grasping and clutching of how life “should” go to absolutely shatter — and that it did.
In our final meditation, we were asked to ponder the idea of our eventual death.
After a particularly emotional excerpt from the book ‘Grace and Grit’ by Ken Wilber about the final moments of his wife Treya’s battle with cancer, we were posed with the question, “if you knew you had one year left to live, what would you do?”
In the silent meditation hall, sniffles began to rise. I could hear a man near where Jonny was sitting break wide open with emotion and I too fell to my proverbial knees. At 31 years old, I had not yet really considered my own mortality. Yet in this moment, I knew…
I knew without a shadow of a doubt that if I was given a diagnosis with one year left, the very first thing I would do is marry Jonny Miller.
The rest would be icing on the cake of life 🎂
“Awareness of approach to death can be a beautiful thing, a frame into which we can put the work of art that is our life, our personal masterpiece.” — June Singer
After this meditation on death, we found ourselves sitting next to each other on the terrace, gazing out over the ocean with tears streaming down our faces. We were both seemingly humbled yet inspired by the tangible reality that we will someday die while having no idea when, how and where it will happen.
But it didn’t matter. If I died next week or in another 50 years, I knew that I would spend as many of those moments with him as possible.
I reached for my journal and wrote, “if you’ll have me, I am totally and whole-heartedly yours.” I slid the journal to him (a taboo move for the retreat) and the widest smile possible spread across his face. He took my pen and wrote back simply, “I will.”
We embraced in an entanglement of tears, laughter and joy.
This was the moment that confirmed we would spend the rest of our lives together, regardless of how short or long those lives would be.
Yet it would be 15 more days until we became officially engaged.
Waiting for a knock in the dark
During the next 15 days, Jonny and I took turns living in isolation in a pitch-black room at Hridaya — as any sane couple tends to do ;)
Imagine a single room with a bed, a bathroom, 2 jugs of water, a yoga mat, some cushions, and 24 hours of silence, isolation, and absolute darkness. We were being fed through a box in the wall and had only ourselves and our spiritual practices to keep us going.
The motivations for such an experience were to explore the depths of our hearts, allow our consciousness to go beyond the physical body, reduce our attachments to the material world, and get a glimpse into the ancient spiritual awakening practice of going into caves for long periods of time.
Jonny went in for the first 10 days and then it was my turn for 5 days.
While I was meant to be meditating 6+ hours/day, I knew before going into the Dark Room that there was a 99% chance Jonny would formally propose the morning I got out. So my fantasy-loving and projecting mind had itself a field day wondering how the proposal would go and getting swept by the excitement of all our future decisions like the wedding, creating a home, starting a family, etc.
I learned, first hand, how difficult it is to settle below the thinking mind when you’re REALLY excited for your life.
As the days went by in this state of isolated fantasy-building, I inched closer to Monday morning at 6 AM when I knew Jonny would be knocking on the door to free me. The closer this time came the more anticipatory excitement, energy and nervousness swept through my mind, body and spirit.
The problem was, I was beginning to enter into semi delusional states of consciousness. I spent the better part of my final night seeing various shades of black turn into 3D projections of ancient cities, ruins, and kaleidoscope figures.
This state led to a drastic miscalculation of time.
My plan was to wake up around 5 AM on Monday morning to shower and meditate before he arrived. However, he (lovingly) fed me cacao the day before, and with the combo of chocolate and this anticipatory energy in my system, I apparently only slept about 1–2 hours thinking I had slept closer to 5–6.
With no way to actually check the time, I woke up and began an hour-long countdown thinking it was 5 AM ⏳
An hour went by.
After ~4 hours went by without a knock, I gradually realized how off my inner clock was. Either that or I was being abandoned in a pitch-black room for the rest of eternity and had completely lost my mind.
The first seemed more likely.
I listened intently to the noises outside of the room trying to hear his steps or identify the sounds that meant sunrise was taking place. I heard roosters, the occasional car, and even some people shuffling about. I heard enough sounds of life to believe 6 AM was any minute now.
Yet time just ticked on with no knock.
I eventually crawled my way back into bed and surrendered to having no clue what time it was, when Jonny would be there, if a proposal was on its way and just about everything else. Instead, I went back to watching mental projections of caves and ruins that were most certainly not in the room (I think).
Those 4 hours waiting for a knock at the door felt like 4 years.
Then, the knock ✊
…I immediately burst into tears 😭
That knock symbolized so much. The leaving of this dark room for good. The ability to breathe fresh air again. Seeing light. Seeing Jonny. Closing the end of a very turbulent multi-year transformation period. And starting an entirely new chapter in life — potentially with a husband to grow old with.
Walking through a door has never meant so much to me.
“What you most want, what you travel around wishing to find, lose yourself as lovers lose themselves, and you’ll be that.” — Attar
I put on my eye mask and peeled the black velcro off the door that kept the light out, opened it, felt the cool morning air on my skin, gulped in a full breath, sensed Jonny’s presence, and embraced him like it were both our first and last hug. The anticipation of opening that door softened me into such a state of surrender as I forfeited any knowledge of what was about to happen.
It was clear, I knew nothing.
With my blindfold on, we navigated toward the beach hand-in-hand and with rickety legs that hadn’t moved more than 5 steps at a time in the preceding days.
While still honoring “noble silence,” it felt like this long dark and quiet walk was my re-birth.
The Dark Room had been like a womb for 5-days and traveling down this path to the beach in darkness was the birth canal. I could sense that a new life was waiting for me the moment my eyes would see light again.
This would happen at any moment now.
All I could do was breathe and hold his hand.
Merging with the infinite ocean of love
Sitting down on a towel, mask still on, I sat there inhaling the salty fresh air and listening to the waves crash along the shore. Feeling the sand between my toes, I heard Jonny light candles and incense and the faint cries of a kitten behind us. I giggled realizing that he had brought Luna, our 7-month old rescue kitten to the beach as well in total Jonny-style.
When he whispered, “ready,” and took off my eye mask, I opened my eyes to the light (for the first time in 5 days) and experienced pure sensory overwhelm. The ocean, the rocks, the random man behind a rock taking photos and smiling, Jonny’s piercing blue gaze, Luna meowing in her case, and a massive bouquet of red roses in front of us.
There was so much to take in all at once that it felt like my head, heart, and soul completely burst. I literally couldn’t hold this moment in its entirety with composure.
I instantly knew that I was experiencing one of those moments in life that will be replayed, reflected on, retold, and remembered forever. I was in the midst of a defining life experience.
As my eyes adjusted to seeing light for the first time, I couldn’t help but spend my first few moments in awe at the vibrancy of the surrounding nature. The waves, the rocks and the greenery had all been turned up in saturation and appeared to be glittering. It was like sitting inside a moving painting made of glittery gel pens.
Taking in nature was almost easier than taking in all of the components of Jonny’s masterpiece proposal. I didn’t know where to start or what to do.
Should I look at him? Grab Luna? Read the card in front of me?
The next I knew, Luna was in my arms and I was pulling a scroll of paper out of and unhooking two rings from her collar.
The scroll asked one simple question…
“Kelly Christine Wilde, will you marry me?”
It was in this moment that I remembered the piece of paper I had written: “YES YES YES” all over and accidentally left in the Dark Room. My plan had been to pull this paper out of my shirt since we had been communicating through short written notes for the past 25 days.
Instead, I looked Jonny in the eyes with tears in mine and said as cooly as possible, “YES.”
At last, we were engaged 🥳
An ode to the Fire Keepers
The hour after was spent drinking celebratory cacao, sweetly kissing and embracing one another while also being semi on edge about our kitten that was now running wild in the cacti-laden hillside behind us (#catmom mode in full swing at this point).
The sun had brilliantly come up behind nearby jagged rocks and fishermen were heading out for their morning commute.
The whole scene was out of a postcard.
To close both the engagement and this story, I’ll leave you with the engagement prayer that Jonny wrote while I was in the Dark Room:
THE FIRE KEEPERS 🔥
Welcome back to this world, oh Best Beloved. Do you see the great fireball glowing on the horizon?
I’ve wondered if that unfathomable cosmic blaze were perhaps placed by the gods — as an immutable reminder of the burning beacon that has shimmered in my heart since the first moment that my eyes gazed into yours.
There are a few things in life which I can be certain. But this I know for sure — that the spark born in your presence in the depths of my being will never go out. I know that everything I ever need is right here.
When Great Storms come to douse our fervent exuberance, will you help me gently breathe aliveness back into the embers? Will you join me in offering up our fallibilities as if giving up the heavy logs we carry for transformation?
Let us make a pact to live as sacred fire-keepers. To carefully nourish those iridescent flames of aliveness. To silently witness its ineffable smoldering magic and to sanctify our mutual devotion as a path to awakening. Oh let us build this fire into a roaring inferno!
One fierce enough to cast tender warmth for future generations who will gather around its hearth. For as the decades unfold — they too will surely lay their own tinder upon the ardent ashes of our lives.
So what do you say, oh Best Beloved? Shall we commit to Sacred Union? Shall we consecrate our lives? To love’s luminous lapping flames as if licking a star-studded sky? For this delightful radiance will surely guide us back home.
(Psst! stay tuned for Jonny’s self-published book of poetry and prayers coming early 2021)
A few candid snaps from our “what is life!?” moment 📸
PS ~ So much gratitude to Phoebe and the mysterious photo man on the beach for helping to make our engagement so wonderful at such an early hour of the day! We are also profoundly grateful to Hridaya Yoga for bringing us closer together than we’ve ever imagined and creating the container to explore the infinite depths of our hearts ❤️
PPS ~ Thank you, Berenice, with Lunaticart for our gorgeous custom engagement rings 💍☀️🌙
Love only gives itself and draws only from itself.
Love possesses not and wants not to be possessed;
for love is itself enough. — Kahlil Gibran