Break Free
This summer celebrate your authentic self

By James Rouse, ND

"No, I don't want to wear shoes today," says my 5-year-old, arms crossed over her chest. On our drive to school, Dakota shares with me how she's been learning about independence and how it takes courage to be free. How true, I think to myself. To be sure, there is a difference between rebelling against shoes and creating true independence. But for Dakota, going barefoot is the first step.

In my clinical practice and in my life I try to exercise independence, to break free of restrictive thoughts—both my own and those in the world. Such limiting feelings include fear of change, lack of self-acceptance and fear that I'll never have enough. Many people get stuck in this kind of emotional trap, which prevents life's full unfolding. Freedom from such feelings, on the other hand, can allow one to blossom into an authentic life.

This July, celebrate your own Independence Day. Begin by opening to life's possibilities. You may want to create a life that expresses your heart's vision, free from your chronic constraints. This is not about exercising willpower, but willingness—willingness to accept the grace, beauty, talent, and great love that you already have.

To begin, we need only follow the words of the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi. In the poem "Open Secret," he wrote, "Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing, there is a field. I'll meet you there." Where is this field? It may be easy to find simply by remembering who you truly are. Another way to describe this place where we act fully in alignment with our true spirit is the Native American phrase "living in one's sacred hoop." You can move toward this sacred space with daily mindful practices such as meditating, journaling, being kind, and choosing to honor and accept yourself.

We can also nourish our authenticity by making healthy, delicious food choices. Independence Day comes at the peak of summer, a naturally opulent time of year. Choose foods that promote vitality, such as berries. Blueberries are an excellent source of antioxidants. Raspberries provide carcinogen-neutralizing ellagic acid, and strawberries are loaded with vitamin C. Berries provide soluble fiber, which lowers cholesterol, and insoluble fiber, which aids digestion. Choose organically grown berries when available; conventionally grown ones carry significant pesticide residues.

We have infinite power within us to be a force for great good. Imagine if we were to move collectively to Rumi's field, where, as a community, we could affirm, "Yes, our self-worth is as strong as our self-critic." An authentic life—our own sacred hoop—is created daily by the choices we make each moment. Whether it's a simple choice, like Dakota going barefoot, or a tougher one, like committing to an exercise program, the moment is here. Welcome to independence.

James Rouse, ND, a naturopathic physician practicing in Denver, Colorado, is the creator of Optimum Wellness and The Fit Kitchen, seen weekly on NBC's KUSA television news. For information or questions for Dr. James you can email him at