Meditation Gardens of Thul'Amat
The meditation gardens of Thul'Amat predate the splitting of the university into its component colleges (and some, at least in part or spirit, date back all the way to Dejai Temple). Almost all of the gardens can be found in Ire’dzosat, where all the magical study departments are housed.
Use of the Gardens
The meditation gardens are mainly visited by clairvoyant conversationalists, students and professors alike. They are used formally in early stage classes to teach students about the practice of meditation and to help them achieve focus, and it is a rare divinipotent student who does not continue to meditate in the gardens at least occasionally during their time at Thul’Amat.
In practice, however, the gardens are open to anyone allowed inside Ire’dzosat’s grounds who can find them. This includes visitors from other colleges within Thul’Amat, from other universities, or even any other visiting galdori. They are not marked or labeled in any meaningful way, however, so this is more of a barrier to entry than it might sound.
The largest of the meditation gardens is Iz, the garden of water. Iz is located in an aquifer beneath Ire’dzosat. The main entrance to Iz is a small wooden door set in ivy-wrapped stone, which sits at ground level. The tunnel which leads into Iz is all smooth stone, and sloped sharply down. Inside, Iz is made of connected stone paths, swirling rivers and waterfalls; there are a larger chambers, including an entrance chamber separated from the deeper parts of the gardens by a waterfall, and smaller, more private ones as well.
There are many different types of meditation rooms within Iz. There are rooms where the water is deep enough to sit in, and where stone benches have been carved into porous rock; there are rooms which are all darkness, and where silent meditation focusing on the sound of water droplets is encouraged. There are rooms with fast-flowing waterfalls, and rooms where water runs slowly through intricately carved spell circles.
It is rumored that there are private entrances to the deepest parts of Iz for the clairvoyant conversation faculty, and chambers that no student - however inquisitive - can find. There is enough evidence in published work to suggest that some clairvoyant professors have used rooms within Iz for sensory deprivation-focused casting, taking advantage of the deep, dark, damp caves for privacy and silence both.
Ifús, the garden of fire, was the last meditation garden built; it was felt for a long time that, given the fire which consumed Dejai Temple, it was not wise to built a garden around the theme of fire. Ultimately, however, the leaders of Thul’Amat at the time decided that the way forward was not to be paralyzed by the fear of looking back; the words ‘let the flames gaze into you’ are written in Mugrobi script atop the entrance to the garden in honor of this moment.
The entrance to Ifús is a room with narrow walkways around a heart of flames; these are actually some of the only perpetually burning flames in all of the garden, with the exceptions of some smaller rooms deeper inside. The walls encasing the garden are built of pure stone, and the walkways are high and set fairly far back from the firepit; the heat is intense, and students have collapsed, but it is unlikely to burn anyone. A clever ventilation system draws the smoke from the fire out and disperses it; nonetheless, Ifús remains the easiest of the gardens to find. It is rumored that the fire is never extinguished, although this is actually only a rumor; the firepit is periodically doused and cleaned.
Deeper rooms involve different sorts of meditative exercises on flames. Some are focused around steam, and there are parts of the garden which are actually above Iz. There are other rooms dedicated to the act of burning, and some where graduating students famously burn their notes or other symbolic documents. A popular room for meditation is the oil-painting room; meditators trace elaborate plots in oil on the ground with brush or fingertip, and set them alight. In other rooms, grooves in the ground make plots of their own, which can be filled with oil and lit.
Ifús is fairly well-sheltered, so it can be used even during the rainy season. The inside is lit entirely with open candles by tradition. It is common to carry a candle cupped in one’s hands while exploring the garden; this practice is called journeying with the flame.
Tseli is the garden of earth. It is composed of a series of interlocking courtyards, connected paths both above and beneath the ground. The courtyards are generally square or rectangular, paved around the edges in stone.
There are some smaller courtyards which are rock gardens, some with small rocks meant to be moved and shaped, others with large rocks that can be sat upon directly. There are several sand courtyards as well, with rakes and other shapers to allow for the tracing of patterns into the sand.
The two most well-known courtyards within Tseli are the courtyards of memory. These are two courtyards connected with a few squares of stone. In the center of one are the petrified remains of a grove of trees; in the other are the glass-stone fragments which were brought out of the remains of Dejai Temple. They are black, glossy, large, and unexpectedly sharp. There are no prohibitions against touching either the trees or the stone, although many students have accidentally cut themselves on the remains of Dejai.
Deeper in Tseli, underground, are a network of tunnels and smaller meditation rooms. Some are elaborately-carved and others are natural, the rock eroded by groundwater and aquifers long since dried up. The tunnels grow narrower and narrower; it is not known exactly how deep in the ground Tseli goes.
Rumor has it that tiny, sealed chambers exist for those experienced enough to experiment with sensory-deprived casting. If they exist, pitch dark and surrounded by the soft susurrus of shifting rock, they exist only to those who can find them, tucked well away from those areas frequented by most students.
Úvew, the garden of air, is large, but it does not sprawl underground like Iz. Instead, it reaches up.
Úvew is tucked away among Ire’dzosat’s clairvoyant buildings and horticultural gardens; an ivy-clad break in a tall stone wall gives way to a small quadrangle with a spiral staircase. It’s hard to tell what Úvew overlooks, or the extent of it, any glimpse into Ire’dzosat’s grounds is cleverly-hidden by the placements of the walkways and the walls. One room might be completely walled off, except for a broad, open ceiling that gives out on the sky; one room might be nothing but walkways overlooking other walkways, with only subtle indications that one is still, in fact, in Ire’dzosat.
The main focus of Úvew is wind, space, and light. It uses architecture to direct and shape the wind. There are rooms with air currents that create elaborate patterns, even plots and prodigia, invisible to the eye until one throws a handful of sand into the wind. There are rooms with stones and wooden chimes shaped to hum, sing, or dance with the wind, some with acoustics designed to create a “drone” which aids the mind.
In others, the sounds and wind currents are designed to challenge the visitor’s focus. A series of tones might hint at a path or reveal a secret; in some, the light and architecture might trick the eye into thinking that a doorway is a solid wall, challenging persistence and dedication to the truth. Úvew is one of the most confusing meditation gardens, and has been known to disorient even Ire’dzosat veterans.
Other than the four oldest, there are many other meditation gardens on Ire’dzosat’s grounds. Most of them are quite small; some are larger, though never so large as Iz.
There is an exception: if asked, many Ire’dzosat faculty will say that Ur’dzúxas is the largest of the meditation gardens. When prompted to elaborate, one might say, “You are standing in it.” Ur’dzúxas means, roughly, garden-work; this meditation garden is made up of all the horticultural gardens surrounding Ire’dzosat’s buildings. These gardens connect all of the meditation gardens, and are tended by students and faculty of all conversations, a symbol of community and responsibility.