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Alex makes a coal-burned bowl.

"Our readiness and potential to experience happiness is mostly dependent on our state of mind, not on our status or the state of our bank account."

--Tal Ben-Shahar      

The Roots of Happiness
By Alex Kurster, Green University® LLC Immersion Student, 2014

      Somewhere along life's path I realized I was not as happy as I felt I should be. I wasn't living up to my potential. After much research, I arrived at the hypothesis that I only needed to have certain needs fulfilled in order to sustain my desired baseline happiness. Anything more could bring stress and negativity into my life, thereby reversing or diminishing my happiness.

      According to the field of positive psychology, the needs for happiness include: air, water, food, warmth and safety (including clothing and shelter), sleep, relationships, and the liberty and security to achieve all of the above under one's own control. In other words, happiness is rooted in our most basic survival needs, just as it was for our ancestors since the beginning of time. This insight sparked an interest in learning primitive living skills.

      Returning to a forgotten primitive lifestyle is not something that can be achieved overnight, but no matter how long it takes, the journey is very rewarding.

A roadkill deer loaded into the car.       Green University provided the hands-on introduction I was looking for, offering a taste of the primitive, hunter-gatherer lifestyle. In the span of four months, I gained such knowledge and skills as camping and canoeing experience, fire-making (bow-drill, hand drill, flint and steel), tool construction (flintknapping, hide glue and hafting, cordage, coal-burned bowls and clay pottery, bows and arrows, sewing kits, weaving basketry), food acquisition methods (throwing rocks, rabbitsticks, atlatls, bow and arrows, hand fishing, stalking, trapping, and plant identification), animal processing (skinning, gutting, butchering roadkill deer and raccoon, hide tanning of raccoon, deer, elk, and buffalo), and clothing production (buckskin pants, moccasins, and a raccoon hat). There is also knowledge that is indescribable in words, which can only be gained through having gone through such an experience.

Alex with his handmade braintan buckskin pants.       Tom Elpel was the lead coordinator of the Green University experience. Thanks to him, and co-instructor Kris Reed, I was exposed to other students, Lydia and Kenny, and we worked together on many projects. We spent considerable time under the instruction of Katie Russell, a hide tanning specialist, and her student Bartle. I even had the opportunity to interview the legend that is Mel Beattie. Tom was instrumental in setting up events such as a canoe trip, a primitive skills gathering trip (Rabbitstick), out-of-state trips, berry-picking trips, outdoor wilderness classes for children and young adults, plant identification walkabouts, soaking in a wild hot springs, fishing and swimming trips, and more. Tom has also written a number of books and released a greater number of videos on subjects including primitive living skills, finance, consciousness, energy-efficient home construction, botany, and foraging. Having read and watched most of his collection, I enjoyed asking questions and discussing the topics in greater detail.

      Much of what I experienced at Green University was entirely new to me. I am grateful for Tom and all of the rest of the people I have met, who have made me extremely content with my decision to stay as long as I did. Alas, having graduated from pharmacy school this year, I have a large debt to repay. What I have gained through Green University will remain with me for a very long time. Green University has also shown me the importance of relationships and community. Experiencing the tribal community at Green University showed me something that was missing in my life. I hope my search for such resources never ceases.

Alex Kurtser, November 2014

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      Looking for life-changing resources? Check out these books by Thomas J. Elpel:

Green Prosperity: Quit Your Job, Live Your Dreams.
Roadmap to Reality: Consciousness, Worldviews, and the Blossoming of Human Spirit
to Reality
Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction
Participating in Nature: Wilderness Survival and Primitive Living Skills.
in Nature
Foraging the Mountain West: Gourmet Edible Plants, Mushrooms, and Meat.
Foraging the
Mountain West
Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification
in a Day
Shanleya's Quest: A Botany Adventure for Kids

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