When I was little I used to love everything about Halloween, especially the ritual of carving pumpkins. I took the process very seriously and would draw these elaborate designs only to hear my father, the designated carver, sigh with dread. I loved seeing my creation take shape, evolving from the spark of an idea into a glowing Halloween masterpiece. The results would elicit reactions of sheer delight! We had to cherish those big orange faces while we could, because they would soon begin to decay and our once treasured works of art would be thrown unceremoniously into the garbage. And that would be that.
My imagination continues to fuel my excitement for the same rituals I enjoyed as a child, only now I fail to execute on the grounds that I’m too “busy”. I concoct these grandiose ideas laced with the best intentions and then I decide it’s not worth the effort, which is a damn shame. The season comes and goes without me having participated in it at all; I just watch it pass me by. When my “busyness” seduces me into abandoning my creativity, I end up feeling like my Self is trapped inside a bunch of meaningless adult mumbo-jumbo that I’ve convinced myself is all very important. Stuck in my mind, I’m unable to engage in my life; it’s all trick and no treat. Well, no more.
“The path to realization is of no use unless one travels it.” – Chip Hartranft, The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali
This year I bought four pumpkins (I’m making up for lost time)! I tried to replicate the image in my mind of our neighbors’ home where we’d go trick-or-treating as kids. Their driveway was always lined with pumpkins, maybe twenty or more. (Do you ever feel like what you remember from childhood is always bigger than what actually happened? It’s possible there were only five pumpkins on my neighbors’ lawn, but we’ll never know. Patanjali tells us that smurti, or memory, is an unreliable source of knowledge. I concur.) So now I have four pumpkins sitting on the bench in our front courtyard and they look spectacular! I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed carving them; folks walked by and seemed genuinely tickled to see my project take shape. “No one does that anymore,” someone said. After I finished my masterpieces, I spent an hour sifting through the pumpkin guts with my hands, picking out the seeds. It was the best japa (repetitive) meditation I’ve done in years.
To roast the pumpkin seeds, you’ll first need to give them a good rinse. Lay them out to dry – if they’re wet they won’t brown in the oven. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil (about a teaspoon) over the seeds, just enough to give the salt something to stick to. Sprinkle with salt and toss with your fingers. Roast at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Keep an eye on them. I happily tested them throughout the cooking process to make sure they had the crunch I wanted. You can also sprinkle them with cayenne pepper to give them a little kick!
Even though I had given myself permission to take the day off, part of me was still running amok through all the things I should’ve been trying to get done. Fortunately, I was having too much fun to feel guilty. Totally engrossed in my pumpkin practice, I felt a familiar wave of creativity wash over me. This yummy salad recipe popped into my head all by itself.
Arugula Salad with Curry Roasted Vegetables, Goat Cheese, and Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
I used acorn squash and cauliflower, but any Fall vegetable would work beautifully. Toss the veggies in the following marinade and roast at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, or until soft.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon of dried ginger spice
1 teaspoon salt
Ginger Shallot Vinaigrette
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried ginger spice
equal parts lemon and olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Combine the roasted vegetables, still warm, with the goat cheese and arugula. Toss with the ginger shallot vinaigrette and top with the roasted pumpkin seeds. Serve immediately.
This year, I feel very much rooted in the Fall, my favorite season, which is a stark difference from years past when it felt like I was running after it, trying to catch up. It’s so important that we participate in moments as they come, because they will ultimately go. On that note, I’m off to light my pumpkins. Soon people will be walking home from work and will hopefully catch a glimpse of my Halloween practice as it glows in the dark. Participating in tradition and ritual serves to remind us that there is no goal other than to treasure the moment—to revel in the impermanence of the finished product. This practice connects us to ourselves in a very real, very organic way. I hope you all have a very Happy Halloween and get to celebrate in all the ways that light you up inside.