5 Ways to Experience Verses You Learn

We don't learn verses by heart for a grade. We want to deepen our _experience_. Learn five ways to think about and imagine the verses you learn.

So far, in this series of articles on learning verses by heart, you’ve learned how to speak the verses out:

  • Speak loudly and slowly

  • With rhythm and expression

And also how to take the verses in:

  • See the words and phrases

  • Hear the words and phrases

  • Feel the rhythms

  • Feel the shapes of the words on your tongue

Today, you’ll learn five ways to experience the verses in your thoughts and imagination.

Move Through the Words into Thoughts

Imagining is both the simplest and the most mysterious aspect of learning these stories by heart.

It’s simple because, in theory, we all know how to imagine. At the very least, we dream every night.

And yet, the mystery of imagination sometimes bewilders me. Imagination is so personal. We hardly have the language to articulate what happens in our heads.

The obvious meaning for “imagination” is a mental image, like a picture or movie. But what we do with these verses can be much more complex.

Here’s the critical point: you want to move through the words into thoughts.

Move through the words into thoughts.

These thoughts can include:

  • scenes and sensations

  • places

  • feelings

  • memories

  • meaning

Scenes and Sensations

Obviously, whenever you can, you want to imagine the scene. What’s happening?

You can see images and hear sounds, like you’re watching a movie. But use your other senses too: taste, smell, touch.

You can experience any sensation you can remember. We hear songs “in our head”, but you can also smell the warm hay in the stable, and feel the cool, smooth Magi gold in your hand.

Places

Think of your sense of space, of a place opening around you. Your imagination, like the real world, is three-dimensional.

When you use your sense of space, you can put yourself into the scene. You can experience it as if it’s happening to you.

When the angels appear to the shepherds, don’t just see a tiny Christmas card, or an imaginary TV screen. Look up. Even if you’re in your bedroom, you can be in a field, at night, in the biting cold, craning back your neck. Far above you, the distant sky is overwhelmed by blazing creatures of light.

You can also ground your scenes in actual places that you know. Wrap the baby Jesus in newspapers, and lay him in a recycling bin in your shed. Then watch the Kings come across the yard.

Feelings

How does the scene make you feel? What about the people in the scene? Can you feel what they’re going through? Emotions can shock you with their intensity.

Memories

Has anything like this ever happened to you? Linking to a scene from your own life creates a powerful resonance.

Meaning

Not every verse describes a scene you can visualize. That’s fine. Abstract thought is important too. A verse can inspire a whole train of thought.

Some memory guides place a huge emphasis on visual memory, and I did so myself when I was starting out. I needed this emphasis — I found out my visual imagination was incredibly more powerful than I’d assumed. But not all thinking has to be visual.

These five kinds of thoughts only scratch the surface. You can think about these verses in as many ways as you can think.