What Growing Grapes Can Teach Us About Boundaries and Mindfulness

By Ellie Walburg on April 15, 2020

Editor's Note: This post is written by guest contributor Beth Bolthouse, M.A., M.S., L.P.C., an adjunct faculty member for Cornerstone University's Professional & Graduate Studies and is adapted from her book "From Loss to Life: How to Transform Your Life after Traumatic Loss" (2019).

Mindfulness is a term that has integrated many areas of our lives.

The more we learn about it, the more we realize that being mindful empowers us to be more successful in our relationships, educational opportunities and careers. It also can be the catalyst to choosing healthy boundaries with ourselves and others in any situation and relationship.

Some have described a boundary as like a circle or fence you choose to put around your life in ways that make sense for you. It involves having integrity within yourself to ensure that you relate to yourself and others from a place of truth and honor.

A boundary can protect you from people or situations that would sabotage your purpose and your goals. It can safeguard your heart as you continue to define your beliefs and your sense of self. It can help you say "No" without guilt and empower you to say "Yes" with joy.

Boundaries and Vineyards

Vineyard with mountains in the background

Several years ago, I was part of a small group Bible study reading through Bruce Wilkinson's book, "Secrets of the Vine." In it, he unpacks the first part of John 14 where Jesus describes Himself as the Vine and His followers as branches. Our group decided it would be fun to drive up north and visit one of Michigan's vineyards to get a better understanding of this word picture.

The man who cared for the vineyard took us around to each of the different grape varieties he was tending and growing and showed us many details involved in working with the plants so they would produce the best wine possible. This deeply affected each of us and led to several "Aha!" moments as the descriptive metaphor Jesus used to talk about His relationship with His followers became more and more alive and meaningful.

Later that summer while developing material for an eight-week boundaries group, I recalled the stories the caretaker shared and the details he provided.

Five Connections Between Growing Grapes and Boundaries

It struck me that growing grapes, or grapevines, is a lot like cultivating healthy boundaries. Since that time, I've found it helpful to compare having boundaries with growing grapes. It expands the description of a boundary described above and integrates the way I believe God relates to us and would like us to relate to others.

1. Versatility

First, grapes can grow in any soil. Boundaries exist in every situation. There's nothing in life where we do not use some type of boundary, whether we stay within the speed limit going down the road, or get up at a specific time in the morning or respond with "yes" or "no" when needing to make a decision.

2. Time to Grow

Next, grapes take a few years to develop and grow into a healthy crop. There are many types of tending that take place as the farmer grows the grapevines, cleaning away weeds and dead wood, shaping and forming them to ensure they produce delicious grapes.

Boundaries also take years to develop into consistent healthy patterns. We often do not know much about boundaries, so learning more about how they affect us and can benefit us takes years of self-reflection, becoming more aware of our own patterns and habits, shaping and forming our thought processes to get rid of the "weeds" and "dead wood"—things like negative thinking patterns like shame, selfishness, fears and anxieties.

It takes practice to train our minds to recognize our true self and make consistently healthy choices.

Grapes in vineyard

3. Regular Pruning

Grapes also must be maintained by regular pruning. This involves getting rid of the "dead wood" that looks just like the grapevine yet will take over the plant and stunt new growth, sabotaging the vine so that it does not thrive.

Boundaries also need to be maintained by changing habit patterns ("dead wood") and automatic thinking ("weeds") so this debris does not sabotage us and inhibit growth. Accountability is another important factor that can help guide us to distinguish between unhealthy thought processes and lead us to realize what is true and beneficial. If we don't take time to prune old habits, they reemerge and stunt us, and we end up going back to old unhealthy ways of living. We become sour grapes!

4. Direction and Guidance

Next, without the farmer's help, the grapevine will grow at its own will and direction. It is important that the vine be trained to grow where the plant can get the most benefit, regardless of weather conditions or other things that may try to sabotage it. The wind and rains and storms of life try to blow us every which way, attempting to sabotage us.

Yet learning healthy boundaries takes training. For us, that involves looking to God for direction and guidance to ensure our true self, the person He created us to be, continues to take shape regardless of circumstances.

5. Search for Life

Finally, the roots of the grapevine will search for water and sustenance and go as deep and as far as they need to find it. When we compare this to having healthy boundaries, we realize it involves searching for wisdom, being willing to grow as far and as deeply as we can so we can live and thrive as the person God created us to be.

Bunches of grapes hanging in vineyard

Taking Mindfulness to Relationships

Being mindful involves making healthy choices for ourselves and in our relationships with others. It is also an important factor in being intentional in understanding, developing and growing in healthy boundaries.

Mindfulness can be one of the most powerful tools we use in our lives, whether at school, work, home—anywhere we go. When we use mindfulness to implement healthy boundaries, it can transform how we treat ourselves, how we treat others and bring powerful enrichment to our world.

Cultivate Mindful Relationships

Seeking out relationships where we are mindful of others is an intentional decision, especially in the area of psychology. As a case manager, volunteer coordinator or other role, you can grow in developing relationships with others rooted in mindfulness to empower all to thrive. Learn more about your opportunities to cultivate those mindful relationships in your work with a bachelor's degree in psychology.

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About the Author

Beth Bolthouse, M.A., M.S., L.P.C., is an adjunct faculty member at Cornerstone University's Professional & Graduate Studies division. She instructs courses in areas such as psychology, counseling and sociology. With extensive experience in counseling and grief recovery, she serves as a bereavement counselor at Harbor Hospice.

Category: Vocation