white orchid
The orchid, a symbol of self-love and uniqueness.

#9 LAUREL Monthly Soundlust: Soulfulness. Self-love and the celebration of soul music

The February edition of LAUREL Monthly Soundlust – Soulfulness – explores the intricate expressions of “self-love” beyond the individual, as we honor and celebrate soul music, a timeless legacy of the African American culture.

Soulfulness: the state of being full of or expressing feeling or emotion

Writing this piece has taken me on a long trip around my own consciousness, knowledge, sense of curiosity and spiritual experience, in a way that none of the previous editions of the Monthly Soundlust has. That explains the complexity of this story, so bear with me.

At first, I was gonna name the playlist “Self-love”. I had come after days, weeks, months, even years, of focusing on my own practice of self-love. Was I doing it right? Was me putting myself in this-and-that kind of situation really honoring it as it should? Was I really doing enough? Was I trying too much? Too hard? Too little?

Self-love beyond the individual

The questions, the thought processes I had in mind were more related to my own becoming as a person, to my craft, to my life as a woman in her 30s, to my romantic experiences, to my professional life, to all the different roles I have in my cosy little bubble, with all my goals and aspirations. Basically, to my day-to-day reality.

But something wasn’t fully clicking in my mind within that whole context of self-love. A few days ago, I had watched a video of Leo Gura from Actualized.org about Self-love being “the greatest teaching in the universe”.

What that video presented to me was a very advanced, abstract at times and quite powerful notion of Self-love. The guy discussed how everything is our own reflection, for “you are the universe looking at itself”. He noted: “the entire universe is part of your own mind [and] self love is the practice of the appreciation of your infinite mind”. 

I don’t think I ever looked at self-love in such a deep, abstract way, but one thing I truly understood – because I had already known it, in my heart, expressed in rather simpler words – is this: honoring and loving ourselves will teach us to honor and love the other

This is something that I’ve been learning and practicing for some time now, as part of my own becoming, a life-long process, nevertheless. Being even more aware of this now, I see that this is what the whole world needs to learn, in order for people to live in a more peaceful and inclusive environment: self-love and self-honoring

To be able to appreciate, embrace and celebrate the beauty of what’s beyond ourselves we must first learn love through self-discovery, through facing ourselves, our biases, our patterns, our narratives.

Which takes me to the story of Soulfulness, the 9th edition of LAUREL Monthly Soundlust.

Soul, music, legacy

Musically, I knew I wanted to share my love and appreciation for soul music in this next edition of the Monthly Soundlust, because it has generally been a big part of my listening experience for years.

Soul music is considered a fusion between rhythm-and-blues and gospel music, experimenting later on with funk and pop.

From the classic soul legends, to the more modern neo-soul and RnB artists nowadays, my musical brain turns into a lush sponge absorbing sounds and vibes from different times in history.

With this idea of making a single genre curated playlist, I got myself to thinking about the way soul music actually came to be a genre in the first place, sometime in the late 1950s, born from the heart and spirit of the African American culture.

There was something really powerful that Ray Charles, “the father of soul”, had said about his music: “I’d like to think that when I sing a song, I can let you know all about the heartbreak, struggle, lies and kicks in the ass I’ve gotten over the years for being black and everything else, without actually saying a word about it.

Learning more about the history of soul, I found an interesting overview of this musical genre in an excerpt from Joel Rudinow’s book, “Soul Music: Tracking the Spiritual Roots of Pop from Plato to Motown”. The author was referring to the genre as “a puzzle lurking at the heart of soul music – one of the most profound philosophical, spiritual and religious mysteries (the soul) together with one of America’s most deeply troubling ongoing social and political issues (racism) in the dynamic flux of vernacular popular culture”.

In Soulfulness, a collection containing a few of the greatest soul songs of all time, you’ll find well-known classic soul artists, like the timeless voices of Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin (“the queen of soul”), artists bringing a more energetic fusion with funk beats or romantic pop influences, as well as stories inspired by the civil movements of the black community in mid 20th century socially divided America.

Reflection

More than just an invitation to explore great music, let’s take Soulfulness as an inner conversation starter. A conversation with ourselves about love, about acceptance, about kindness, about justice, about responsibility, about our human existence.

And through it all, remember that everything begins and becomes with love. The entire universe is part of ourselves and we are part of the universe. So whatever we love – or not love about ourselves – we project, one way or another, out there. People, nature, universe.

In order to get a friend, be a friend.” (Maya Angelou)

Final note: Black History Month is celebrated throughout the whole of February, in U. S. A. and across the world. Nevertheless, the learning, the self-actualization in relation to what we can do better and the practice of love go on, all year round, on and on.

Enjoy listening to Soulfulness, an edition dedicated to soul music and, if you enjoy it, save it to your Spotify collection by following the playlist.

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