Notes from the Idyllwild vision quest

I am here to report on the vision quest I did over the past weekend.

It was… intense.

I began fasting on Thursday afternoon at 4:30pm, intending to drink only water for the next three days – until Sunday at 4:30pm.

After my final evening client, I stuffed outdoorsy gear into the back of the 4Runner and hit the road for Joshua Tree.

Driving away from LA on the 10 Freeway was wonderful. I’ve been in a pretty disciplined routine for a couple of months and if felt so good to cut and run toward the wilderness.

Arriving around 10pm on the property where Scampy stays, I opened the car door and was engulfed in that great alive desert calm.

Stars were out. It was quiet. The breeze was moving softly around my face and through my hair.

I trudged up to the camper door, turned the little purple key, and stepped inside.

Whoa! The memories of the past year swirled through me. Did I really live in this little egg of a camper for most of the year?!

I could FEEL the massive inner transformation that had taken place inside those rounded walls.

Having spent the last two months in my LA apartment, there was suddenly new perspective on what a big thing living in the camper in the desert was!

On Friday morning after spending the night in the Scamp, I shook out the old orange tent that my uncle Steve Rae gave me. Then stuffed it next to the blue Walmart sleeping bag in the back of the 4Runner, and headed up to Idyllwild in the San Gabriel mountains.

Idyllwild is a very special high mountain village.

Originally I encountered Idyllwild nearly 20 years ago when I side-hustled as assistant to a holistic horse veterinarian while trying to be an actor in LA. There were several horses and donkeys nearby we’d work with.

The town is peppered with little houses tucked away amidst pine trees with jingling wind chimes and scalloped eves. The shops are filled with charms and enchantment.

The camping spot I rented through the Hipcamp website was a private property up a hill beyond the village. A modest plateau of land flanked by a silvery cliff on one side, then dropping off into a forest of conifers on the other.

The advertisement for it warned that only vehicles with 4-wheel-drive could enter.

Midday Friday I slowly set up the tent, hiding an “emergency apple” in the corner. The sun blazed high and hunger was setting in, as it had been nearly 24 hours with no food.

I sipped water. Rested. Then looked around the campsite for some way to delineate a circle.

There were HUGE pine cones and many twisted sticks, so I crafted a great ring around the area with them. Then I plunked down in a lawn chair, and did nothing.


Gaze at the many layers of trees. Meditate on Lily Rock – the giant pinkish cliff that watches over the village. Smell the sticky sap on my fingers from moving the pine cones. Shift my chair to stay in the shade of a tree as the sun slowly set. Sip more water.

Just sitting there waiting…

For what though?

For nothing.

Later that evening I wrote down these questions in a blank notebook:

Why am I here?
What am I leaving behind?
What am I taking forward?
What is the book I’m going to write about?
What does it mean to be an artist?
What should I do next?

That first night I thought I would sleep in the tent but it was stuffy. So as the stars pressed through the darkness I dragged my bedding outside and set up under the night sky.

The air was much fresher outside and after a while the gnawing in my stomach quieted down enough to fall asleep.

Usually on day two of a fast the hunger shifts to something easier… a sort of ethereal hollowness. This was not the case for me upon waking up that Saturday though.

As the sun climbed higher and my skin flushed, the physical discomfort only grew. I tried to focus on the beauty of the place. I tried to watch myself watching my thoughts, but still my stomach ached and my mind got dizzier.

If I stood up too quickly I’d lose my balance. Likely the 5,500 altitude that I was not acclimated to added to the nausea.

But still, interesting things were coming through.

While sitting holding a plump purple mug, I asked the universe for some kind of message. Immediately a giant bumblebee came spiraling out of nowhere and dove straight into my empty cup. I laughed as it clunked around a bit before bumbling its way back out.

Then I was lying in a lump on my face on my rock climbing mat and asked the air, what is the book I’m going to write about?

Immediately the answer came through, and I relocated to sit under a tree while the ideas for the different chapters flowed easily into my notebook.

As time passed, answers to all of the questions I had written down drifted into my awareness.

But by evening of Saturday night I hadn’t eaten for over 50 hours and the physical discomfort was quite intense.

Again, I set up my bedding outside under the stars. After a long while, I dozed off, but awoke frequently to the ache of my starving body.

Finally, it must have been about 4am, and the crescent moon had risen. I sat up and thought about that apple.

I felt into my body for about 20 minutes, wondering what the best choice was, and finally I had to admit that the fast wasn’t feeling right. It was too much given the summer of many changes, the chaos of California on fire, the state of the world.

I dug into the corner of the tent, found the apple, sat on a lawn chair in the night air, and took a bite.


I ate it slowly in the starlight, then went back to bed and slept deeply until dawn.

Maybe I just needed a weekend alone in nature I thought as I dozed off. Maybe I didn’t need to starve also…

The next morning I walked to town and had a decaf with an old yoga friend on the wooden porch of the local coffee shop. Nibbled on a too-sweet blueberry scone. Then took my time packing up and making my way back to Los Angeles.

Upon my return, many things shifted in my priorities and perceptions.

I had been playing with the idea of leading a yoga challenge from October through the election, and I suddenly clearly knew I had to do it.

My feelings of gripping, of control around certain parts of my life eased up.

A feeling of trust washed through me… the most skillful actions come from space and stillness – not calculating and trying.

So… all in all, it was good. It was the right reset. It was right to fast. It was right to break the fast 12 hours early. It was really good. I certainly feel more clear and grounded now.

Ready for more trauma resolution work.

Ready to wrap my arms around the community of people who want to immerse in yoga for five weeks together.

Ready to work on this book.

Nature always knows.


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Ariel Kiley - creator of Lady Quest Coaching Program

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