Welcome to Chinese Medicine Bristol's official blog! Here, Acupuncture and TCM pracitioner Sandra Arbelaez will share information about Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine, how they work, and the latest research and developments related to TCM. You will also find knowledge and ideas on how to enjoy a full, healthy life that she has picked up over the course of 15 years of exploring the world of natural health

Tuesday 2 July 2019

My 15th year in practice

I cannot believe it has been 15 years since I started practising acupuncture!! It is such a privilege to be able to say this and to have met all the people I have met, each of whom has taught me something and helped me become a better practitioner in one way or another. I am often asked how I ended up doing what I do, and I always give the short answer. This is the full story of the personal journey that took me to discover all the wonderful things that Chinese medicine has taught me

This journey started many years ago while I was living in London. I was in my mid-twenties experiencing chronic Kidney disease which I had developed as a result of excess stress, excess work, excess exercise, excess alcohol, and not enough nutrition; all mixed in with PTSD (which I never identified at the time) that had resulted from the trauma of being followed by a stalker everywhere I went for a whole three years while I was still living in Colombia. My lack of awareness of my physical and emotional needs was at the base of my health issues, but this was something I was yet to discover.

After a few years of trying unsuccessfully to “get fixed” by the doctor and getting increasingly ill, weak, and scared, I finally decided to try acupuncture which I was convinced, for reasons unknown to me, would help. I had my first acupuncture session one afternoon after yet another kidney infection had hit me. After telling him about my symptoms, the practitioner looked calmly at me and told me I would probably be better off with herbal medicine, which he did not do. I would not take it; I was adamant acupuncture was what I needed and he reluctantly agreed to treat me. I remember him asking questions as if he knew exactly what I was feeling, I couldn’t believe he would ask me about my knees and my ears! Later I learnt how these parts of the body are closely related to the Kidney energy. 

That first treatment was the beginning of a long process, I seemed to be very responsive to it and felt completely different straight after. Although still unwell, I felt lighter and the uncontrollable fearful thinking and the anxiety constantly making my heart flutter and my stomach tighten were all gone for several days. While my physical energy continued to improve steadily for the years I was in treatment for my ailments, my mind and emotions were where the deepest transformation actually happened. I became increasingly aware of my body, my intuition and trust in it got stronger, and my interest in my own health grew to become a fascination with nutrition, herbalism, energy, and natural health. While my body was still too weak to be used in a normal way, I delved into every single library book I found about these subjects and started to apply all the necessary changes that still support my wellness now.  It was at this point that I realised it was not possible to continue living in the way that I have lived until then. Everything had to change, including my career as a classical musician. I was forced to rethink the life plan I had imagined for myself, which was incredibly confusing and made me feel lost for I don’t know how long. I started to do little jobs that my energy levels permitted, and waited for something to happen.

I heard of something called Reiki and became curious about it so I took a course, and then another one to help me get better. After this, I embarked on a massage course. My health had improved a lot and I felt elated to discover the whole new grateful and joyful me who had risen from the distraught and sickened old one. I wanted to give something to others and I loved giving massage to people and feeling the difference it made to their stress and tension. However, I began to encounter more people with deeper issues which could not be solved with massage and I got restless to take the next step. Finally, in 2001, I took courage and decided to learn more about the mysterious therapy that had helped me become aware of how my body worked and which had been at the centre of my return to health. I never looked back. It was the summer of 2004 when I started practising acupuncture, I had both excitement for what was to come and apprehension for my lack of experience but I remember feeling that I was finally on the right track after being forced to change direction in such a tumultuous way.

The day I received my MSc
Like most people’s, my journey into healing was a lonely and, at times, extremely painful one. I guess this was the way it had to be for me to learn what I did, but I came out the other side convinced that it didn’t have to be the same for everyone and wanting to help others on their own journey. Becoming an acupuncturist allowed me to do this. In the last fifteen years, I have tried to be for others that neutral person who can truly listen, and who can help them understand what is happening, reassure them, and make helpful suggestions so that they can feel empowered to heal their whole beings. This, and the constant need to learn more which has kept me studying and trying to deepen my understanding of Chinese medicine, have been my main driving force. In exchange, I get much more than I ever asked for: I get to make a living doing exactly what I feel I am here to do, and I get showered with love and gratitude every single day of my life.

With a neurology professor at Heilongjiang University, China
Volunteering in India with World medicine

with  amazing teacher Dr Suzanne Rubidoux in Dublin
Chinese medicine has taken me to many places in the last 15 years. It took me to Reading for three years to learn Chinese herbs,  to London for one year to do an MSc in Oriental medicine, to China for three months to learn about the amazing work that can be done with neurological conditions, to India to volunteer with World Medicine, and in the last two years to Dublin to be showered with knowledge by one of the most amazing practitioners I have met. I can never imagine getting to a point when I can sit back and think that I have learned everything there is to know about what I do. This is not only encompassing Chinese medicine. I feel that every year in practice I learn more about myself and about being human in these stormy times. This learning, and helping those who suffer, is what life is about for me, and I am grateful to be able to live this experience. I am filled with love and appreciation for all those who have shared different parts of this journey with me, for all those who have offered me their knowledge and wisdom, and for all those who have trusted me and allowed me to be part of their own journeys. All of you are my teachers and I thank you for that. 

With hope to continue growing as a human being and as a practitioner for at least another 15 years. Much love and healing to all,