FORMER high-flying marketer turned holistic therapist, Belinda Murphy, is on a mission to give children and teenagers the tools to cope with life’s challenges.
Liscarroll-based Belinda, a mother-of-three, has been on a journey stemming from her early thirties when her marriage broke down. She says she had no “tools” to cope with the changes taking place in her life.
At the time, she had two children, Cillian and Phelim, aged five and four.
“During that time, I struggled,” admits Belinda.
“I had a Masters degree in business, loads of corporate experience, but no tools whatsoever to deal with what was going on for me. That really perplexed me. I was looking at a big hole and hadn’t a clue how to get out of it.”
Belinda was working part-time at Ballyhoura, helping people with start-ups. She recalls reaching a point where she said to herself that she deserved better.
“I said it out loud and I meant it and kept repeating it in my head. It’s kind of like I started to attract people into my life that normally I wouldn’t have access to.
“At work, I was sent out to meet a person who had started her own business, a holistic centre. While I went out to her thinking I was going to help her, she was the one that really helped me.
“She started speaking a whole different language. It was like I was meant to go down that route.”
Pursuing holistic therapies, Belinda started reading around the subject and attending courses, all on the side.
“It was pure passion. My heart was telling me I should do this so that’s when I trained as a Reiki master teacher. It was a 12-month programme.
“Reiki involves balancing the energy in a person’s body by using your hands on the body. I used to come home to the boys every evening and they’d be asking me what I was doing.”
Belinda also studied life coaching and massage.
It was then that she started focusing on children’s needs for therapies like Reiki.
“I started explaining everything to the boys in their language. I found it quite easy to talk about. It was stuff like quantum physics, energy, positive affirmations and self-care. I realised that there was nothing out there for kids in this area.”
One day, Belinda was driving home when her head was filled with words.
“When I got home, I wrote the words down and they became the story of ‘Bella the Butterfly.’ It was like a poem with 13 verses. I kept writing.
“It felt completely outside of me and inside me all at the same time. It was very strange. I’ve never had an experience like that before.”
‘Bella the Butterfly’ initially came out as an audio recording. Then, during lockdown, Belinda produced the book version of the story, which was launched at Dunnes Stores and is available in branches of the chain all over the country, as well as on Amazon. It’s a mindfulness programme for children incorporating original meditations, crystals, energy healing, chakra balancing and angel therapy.
The story is that of a caterpillar that transforms into a butterfly in such a way that the child reading it imagines they are the butterfly, surrounded by love. The child is guided through the 12 positions in Reiki and the meaning of these positions is related through the story of Bella.
“The Reiki aspect has healing and spiritual qualities which children empathise with so easily due to their natural alignment with the Reiki energy.
“I know at first hand the value of the CD as a tool to assist young children to become calm and peaceful.”
Belinda recorded the story 12 years ago but always wanted a book version of it.
“But I had to deal with my own stuff. I separated and changed jobs. I met my new partner. We changed homes and we had a baby girl (Saorla Bella). I then set up my own business six years ago.”
Going under the name Bella the Butterfly Love, Belinda visited schools around Munster, introducing children to Reiki and mindfulness. But lockdowns during the pandemic meant that she couldn’t visit schools.
However, Belinda instead travelled to local schools in her area, doing breathing techniques and craft activities as part of mindfulness exercises.
Belinda initially practised her therapies on Saorla Bella, who was four at the time. The proud mother says her daughter is a natural at holistic therapies, just like her sons who absorbed what Belinda taught them, “like sponges”.
Now that the boys are in their teens, Belinda says her new-found knowledge “helps me with their challenges. It really helped to ground us. You might be focusing on the negative or on anger. It really pulled the boys back from that. I’m very proud of how they responded (to her lessons) and I’m proud of who they are.
“I’m starting all over with Saorla Bella. In her school in Liscarroll, they have a ‘Wellness Wednesday’. It’s built into the curriculum. The teacher puts a lot of time aside to do breathing with the children, mindfulness and little meditations.
“The whole area of resilience is talked about a lot now as well as children’s mental health. I’ve been doing that work for years. It’s not something that should be new, but at school, you learn English, Irish and maths, but children are not taught about their mindset or emotions. That’s my area.”
Belinda gives workshops at weekends. And she sometimes does exercises with parents and their children together.
“It’s one thing doing it at school but this is a 24-hour thing. That’s why I brought out the book. It’s something that parents can read to their children. It’s a nice activity and it helps bonding.
“I know we’re gone the way of gadgets but I always come back to the importance of holding a book, smelling it, and knowing what’s coming next. There’s comfort in it.”
School budgets for bringing experts in to do wellness classes are limited, says Belinda.
“Usually, the parents put together the money for them.”
She hopes the government will stick to its promise “to focus on the wellbeing of children after Covid.”
Belinda thinks the curriculum is too academic.
“You can’t outsource the upbringing of your children to teachers though. A parent is a parent 24 hours a day.”
Her illustrated book is easy to read, she says.
“You don’t need any background in the area. A child can read it through by themselves. It’s not an academic book, although it’s used by teachers and play therapists and also art therapists.”
Clearly, Belinda has found a new fulfilling path in life. She says her partner, Brian Downes, has trained in Reiki and does meditation.
“He finds it all very worthwhile. He’ s really the business brains behind the business.”
Belinda Murphy is on instagram @bellathebutterflylove.