Each of the excellent posts below have something to say about the essential nature of life, and where it might be found.
The Buddhist Blog, Buddhism and Atheism
Being a Buddhist Atheist...does NOT--I repeat--does NOT mean that Buddhists are nihilistic (and I do not meant to imply that non-Buddhist Atheists are all nihilists either). Yes we believe that all things are empty but that simply means empty of any independent existence. It is a concept that propels us to act in a benevolent way toward others, animals and non-living things as our happiness is directly connected to the happiness of others and non-living things.Thinkbuddha.org, Meditation and Intimacy
The Mahamudra texts point to [the subtlety of meditation] beautifully when they state that we fail to recognise the true nature of the mind for four reasons: it is too close; it is too ordinary; it is too profound; and it is too excellent. So often, when I have been having difficulty with meditation, it is because I have not recognised these things.LiLindsey in Lawrence, God is In the Rain
There's a passage in Living Buddha, Living Christ, and I wish I had my book here so I could reference it but I don't, so bear with me as I try to paraphrase.It might also be interesting to find out about Jonathan Miller's "A Brief History of Disbelief," a personal exploration of atheism that was discussed on Bill Moyers Journal last Friday night. Unfortunately, the series is not being shown here in L.A. but you might find it "in your neck of the woods." It looks to me, from what I saw, to be an extraordinarily interesting piece of work.
We call things by names when we don't truly understand what they are. For example we call a mountain a mountain without truly understanding what "it" is.
Then we realize that it isn't actually just a mountain-it is sunshine and air and all the people who have climbed it. Its arising was interdependent on everyone and everything else.
Once we realize this, we can go back to calling it a mountain.