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"I believe in the power of belief, so I try to use it sparingly and with great care"

Dara del Rio

Astral Healing Arts

Sonoran Desert | Tucson, AZ

My name is Dara del Rio, which means “of the river” in Spanish. Maybe that’s a touch ironic since I live in the Sonoran desert. My grandparents remember a time where there used to be water that flowed year round here back in the 1970’s. Sometimes when I look out, I like to imagine what the landscape would be like if that was still the case. So in a way, the rivers here still live on inside of me.

When I was twenty, my life was saved by a medicine woman & shaman with psychic powers. It changed my perspective on what is real and what is possible. Now, I spend a lot of time exploring the imaginal realm of possibility, the dream world where our lives and ambitions are seeded before they become manifest in this reality. My work weaves somatic & shamanic practices that help guide people into deeper levels of wholeness and connection.

What motivates you?

I’ve become pretty comfortable with who I am and what ignites the fire inside of me. I am moved by cosmic love as well as vengeance. My astrology is ruled by the planet Mars, so I wonder how much that has to do with it. I don’t necessarily see those forces as oppositional to each other—the essence of my “darker” motivations is a deep sense of injustice at the many cruelties and inequities of life that I don’t want to play a hand in perpetuating.

What’s it like living in the middle of the desert?

I grew up in Tucson and have spent most of my life here. Now that I live on open desert land outside of the city I understand my own nature better. The desert is hot and cold. There is a vastness in its polarity between day and night, with big temperature fluctuations, startling brightness and deep darkness.

In the bible there is the story of the Jew’s exodus from Egypt, and their freedom is a cause for celebration. What happens next though is that they spend forty years wandering in the desert searching for the promised land. I feel that I am wandering in the desert for now. I long for something more, and it feels heightened being out here with so much else stripped away. I live off the grid on solar power, and have a composting toilet. So needless to say, I have to deal with my own shit.

How do you relate to the work that you do?

It took me a long time to identify myself as an artist because I don’t have anything material to show as a finished product, but rather a healing arts practice. My artistry takes place on the astral plane, and moves through me like flowing water. Usually I’ll feel myself slip into a kind of trance state and start feeling people, spirit beings, or seeing metaphorical imagery. It’s a balance between consciously directing the flow of energy and simply being witness to allowing a greater story to unfold.

I have training in elemental taoist medicine and buddhist practices, and quite a bit of experience with amazonian shamanism, which all inform my practice. What always continues to surprise me with the healing arts is that there are no rules, only frameworks and ideologies. People and consciousness are so fluid that there’s never a true formula that will always work for everyone—it’s a constant dance and balance between what the mind knows and the body feels to find what’s going to work for any given person at any given time.

Where do you feel most at home?

That’s a good question, and one I’ve been trying to find the answer to myself. Home feels like more of a feeling than a certain place, but there are some places that are a lot more likely to evoke that feeling—all are at high altitude in sunny places. Being closer to the sky brings me a sense of inspiration, connectedness, and awe that feels so potent and boundless.

What do you believe in?

I believe in the power of belief, so I try to use it sparingly and with great care. I believe that humans are generally good beneath all the shit & suffering. I believe in myself. And mostly, I believe in miracles.

What is something you don’t understand about yourself?

I often find myself revisiting places I’ve been in the past in my mind’s eye and I have no idea how I got there, or why I’m there. It could be a library from a town I used to live in, the grassy space behind my preschool, a spot on a street outside of a cafe in the city I attended college. It always comes on very strongly and very suddenly, and never seems to have anything to do with what I’m doing or how I’m feeling in the moment. I wonder if this happens to other people too.

What are your ambitions for the future?

As of late, I’ve been dreaming about becoming a goat mama and growing at least my own salad greens. In general, I’d like to be a part of a thriving family and community that I am proud of. Everything else—money, location, occupation—doesn’t feel as important as this. Being intimately connected to my friends and loved ones is truly what I value most in this world, and what I hope my legacy will someday be.