Tim and I went out for coffee yesterday. As per usual, we played a match of 'reality volley,' and this time he made me run for the ball with a corner shot directed at my Lenten practice. The argument was while it is nice to use such a holiday as a way of recentering, there is nothing keeping one from engaging in such practices now. He also said that while the practice is good, it can (like all things), be used as a crutch to deflect focus from the real cause of suffering; i.e., Lent becomes just another distraction (albeit a seemingly noble one) from the uncomfortable reality of [?]--whatever it is we run away from with such frantic gusto. It is sometimes easier to stay for years with things outside the Self than to sit for an hour with the things inside.
I defended myself by claiming that keeping God at the center of any ascetical practice is the spinal column that holds up its integrity as a spiritual discipline. He lobbed an argument over my head--that God, like everything, is just a label we ascribe to a reality that cannot be captured (he used the label 'river' as an example: there is no permanent 'river' because their reality is one of constant flux. It is a more obvious example, but really this is the case with everything without exception. The Christian might argue that God is the one unchanging Reality but of course this is not a view shared by Buddhists as they do not exempt even God (or, more accurately, our construction of the label-falsely-perceived-as-reality "God") from the Law of Non-Permanence)). Since God is just another label, my claim that one must 'keep God at the center of Lenten practice' in order to maintain the ascetic integrity of such a practice was rendered to be one that was no more real or important than, say, using Lent as a reason to give up chocolates; one was just as valid as the next, since what the practice meant to each person varied from reality to subjective to reality. I watched the ball sail over my head to a back corner of the court and bounce a few times before rolling into the fence. Game. Set. We headed home.