Earlier this year I opened my own acupuncture clinic in Upwey, a Melbourne suburb in the Dandenong Ranges. It was the culmination of a dream I had for many years while renting rooms at shared clinics in London and Melbourne.
As I sit at my desk overlooking forested hills on the edge of one of the world’s most liveable cities, I’ve been reflecting on the differences between practising acupuncture in London and Upwey.
In London I liked to catch the bus to work rather than the Underground. I’d often spend an hour travelling to my clinic at the top of a red double decker, stealing glimpses over peoples’ garden walls. Sometimes these journeys seemed to go on forever; even London’s brilliant bus lane network gets congested because there are so many buses.
In Upwey, the time I would have spent commuting is more productive. Some mornings I might sweep possum poo and gum tree leaves off the front steps. I’m often cheered on by colourful parrots and laughing kookaburras. Other mornings I have time to head down to the local yoga studio, Hark Yoga in Ferntree Gully, to ground myself before heading back up my hill to start a day in the treatment room.
In London my rooms either had no window, or a very small window with no view. Pockets of nature exist in the city, and places like Hampstead Heath are all the more precious for the fact you have to make the effort.
But in Upwey I’m completely surrounded by nature with a living wall of plants surrounding the treatment room, and breathtaking views of the Dandenong Ranges National Park where I sit and write my notes. The first time I saw a praying mantis stalking through my bromeliads, I jumped; nowadays I just smile and let the little beast get on with her day.
The treatment room here at Upwey Acupuncture is peaceful and relaxed. Occasionally I can hear the chortle of a magpie, or the distant clatter of the train echoing across the valley on its journey between Upper Ferntree Gully and Upwey. The background noise in London was more often than not that of police or ambulance sirens or a plane coming in to land at one of the many airports.
In the UK only a few patients were able to make private health claims on their acupuncture treatments, but in Melbourne one swipe of the health insurance card through the HICAPS machine gives all policy holders their entitled rebate immediately on the spot.
Practising in my tight-knit local community here in Upwey means that I get to meet weekly for coffee at my favourite local café, Nevedya, with other local business owners, and often with a local acupuncture group to discuss all things practitioner-ish.
In London I would meet with my acupuncture group only once every couple of months. The fast pace of London life and the distance between us all got in the way far too often.
My days end with walking the dogs at Belgrave Lake Park, where platypus swim, or a lap of the lake at Birdsland where kangaroos will come out and stare us down if we get too close. If the dogs are too tired from playing on our hill, I’ll leave them to rest and take a hike in Sherbrooke Forest – known by locals as simply the best walking in the Dandenong Ranges.
And then there’s the weather. Only someone who has lived in London can understand the mental toll that three continuous months of grey sky can take on a person. The weather in Upwey isn’t always sunny, but even when it rains, the spectacle of clouds rolling in over the hills from our vantage point on the hill (below) never gets boring.
Practising in London was good for me as an acupuncturist. I did my training there and met fellow practitioners who remain lifelong friends. The city is home to world-class acupuncturists whose influence made me the practitioner I am today.
But in the end I was ready to return home and in Upwey I have found what I was missing all those years: a true connection to nature. I believe this benefits my patients by enhancing the treatments I do.