In a large stockpot, combine beans, contents of spice packet, and 12 cups water.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours. Stirring occasionally until the beans are tender and the soup is to your desired thickness.
Add a little water as needed while beans cook.
Remove the bay leaves before serving.
Serve as is, or topped with sour cream and sliced avocado, tortilla chips, or cornbread.