Valerie June is a Tennessee-bred, New York-based singer-songwriter whose new album, The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers, is an exploration of the purpose of dreaming and how to engage with a newfound sense of hope and possibility. Her book Maps Of The Modern World is a collection of poems and original illustrations about cultivating community, awareness, and harmony with our surroundings as we move fearlessly toward our dreams.
For Gratitude: Natalie Merchant’s “Kind and Generous”
In our busy lives, it’s very easy to forget to say thank you to those who are the closest to us. This is a song that’s excellent to share with those we appreciate. Similar to the way Merchant ends this lovely song by repeating “I want to thank you, thank you/Thank you, thank you,” it’s especially great as a mantra to repeat the words “thank you” as we move throughout each day.
For your kindness, I'm in debt to you
And I never could have come this far without you
For Enlightenment: Sun Ra’s “Enlightenment”
How would it feel to realize a state of enlightenment? What would enlightenment sound like? Would we be filled with an exuberance for our time in these bodies? This is a joyful jazz song that embodies a lightness of the heart. It’s a very whimsical and playful conversation between the musicians that ends with the horns on a high note.
For Respect: Aretha Franklin’s “Respect”
Of course, Franklin’s version of “Respect” is a song most people have heard. It’s a classic both because of her delivery and the timeless need we each have to respect one another. She simply spells it out for us in case we dare forget. It can be easy to listen to this song from the perspective of two lovers navigating the heart’s high seas, but it’s equally powerful as an anthem for humanity that calls us to simply respect each other’s differences and beliefs. It is by being respectful that we can grow and create a more harmonious existence for all living beings.
Just to spell it out:
Find out what it means to me
For Forgiveness: John Prine’s “Boundless Love”
How many times in life do we fall? How many times do we need those we love to forgive us? It is through boundless love that we are able to truly forgive each other for those moments we may have fallen short of being present. The beauty of this song is that the word “boundless,” gives the listener endless space to be honest and imperfect. Though flawed, it is a space we arrive at through love and forgiveness that offers glimpses of a heaven-like perfection. This song carves space for vulnerability to heal and unite us.
If I came home, would you let me in?
Fry me some pork chops and forgive my sin?
Surround me with your boundless love
Confound me with your boundless love
For Love: The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love”
Lao Tzu in the Tao Teh Ching says: “Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know.”
In twisting those words around, The Beatles were able to give that quote a musical context. When the Tao speaks of those who know being silent, it’s easy to see the truth of the song as it melodically speaks of “nothing you can know that isn’t known.” Since every living being has a unique path and purpose, there is never anyone who can truly know the way for someone else. Where does the way lead us? Ultimately, each person will need to define that for themselves, but as the adventure continues, we know that love is all we will need to make through.
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need
For Positive Change: Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come”
Very few people will argue with the idea that life is hard. In the last year with the pandemic and the wounds from systemic oppression being revealed, we know we are in need of huge positive changes and some richly powerful healing for our planet. Songs, art, poems, and nature are prescriptions and maps to help us heal. This song is a prescription that will keep our hearts open to visualizing positive growth nationwide. It is through our collective minds that we each, in small ways, contribute to creating a more loving world.
What if we were to believe that we are the change? What if now is the time for the greatest shifts of kindness to positively recharge our hearts and reset the wheels of karma with heartfelt actions? What would it be like to have so many positive things in the karma toolbox that we know our tomorrows will be full of gifts? Who can envision an abundant, radiant, and brightly elevated earth?
It's been a long
A long time coming
But I know a change gonna come
Oh, yes it will
For Meditation: Alice Coltrane’s “Om Shanti”
In closing, this is a song to welcome silence. I have no words. Just listen to your heart and enjoy this beautiful piece!