I'm a big fan of Stephen Bachelor, who writes about Buddhism from a pleasingly non-religious, non-supernatural perspective.
I didn't like "Confession of a Buddhist Atheist" as much as his other books, but some quotations from this book that someone emailed to me resonated with my psyche.
Here they are. The boldfacing was added by the person who sent me the quotes.
To be conscious of what is happening in the present requires training in mindfulness, which Gotama described as “the one way” to achieve the kind of focused presence and responsiveness needed to function optimally on a groundless ground.
Indeed, he spoke of mindfulness (sati) as being grounded (pat hāna) in whatever occurs in one’s body, feelings, and mind as well as in the world about one. Mindfulness is to be aware of what is happening, as opposed to either letting things drift by in a semiconscious haze or being assailed by events with such intensity that one reacts before one has even had time to think.
Mindfulness focuses entirely on the specific conditions of one’s day-to-day experience. It is not concerned with anything transcendent or divine. It serves as an antidote to theism, a cure for sentimental piety, a scalpel for excising the tumor of metaphysical belief.
“When a monk breathes out long,” said Gotama, “he knows: ‘I am breathing out long.’ Breathing in short, he knows: ‘I am breathing in short.’”
Such a person acts in full awareness when looking ahead and looking away, when flexing and extending his limbs, when wearing his robes and carrying his bowl, when eating, drinking and tasting, when defecating and urinating, when walking, standing, sitting, falling asleep, waking up, talking and keeping silent.
...There is nothing so lowly or mundane that it is unworthy of being embraced by mindful attention. Mindfulness accepts as its focus of inquiry whatever arises in one’s field of awareness, no matter how disturbing or painful it might be.
One neither seeks nor expects to find some greater truth lurking behind the veil of appearances. What appears and how you respond to it: that alone is what matters.
The person who sent me these quotes added some thoughts of his own.
A Buddhist friend of mine whom I used to meditate with talked this way about meditation. It makes a lot of sense to me and also takes the frustration out of it.
Instead of going away from a time of meditation thinking that I didn’t get anything out of it because I didn’t have some “experience," now I see it as there is no wrong way to meditate or a “bad” session.
Because I’m just paying attention to what is actually happening. If that makes sense?
Yes, it does make sense. This is the way I meditate now also. Or at least, how I try to meditate.
It's difficult to break past habits of believing that certain kinds of experiences are to be sought for in meditation, like a calm mind.
But I'm getting better at this, in part through the guided meditations I listen to every morning via the Calm app on my iPhone. They're very much in line with the Buddhism Stephen Bachelor is talking about.
After listening to a guided meditation, I then engage in my own "free-form" meditation.