The wonderful thing about Buddhism originally (the Dharma as taught by the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama) is that it was a forest tradition.
Siddhartha left Kapilavastu, the territory of his family, cut off his hair, discarded his fine clothes, crossed the river in a simple garment and went in search of yogis in the wilderness.
He found Alara Kalama and then Uddaka Ramaputra, wandering ascetics who taught him to meditate in the tradition of mental serenity. This led to a great accomplishment -- self control and a clear heart/mind.
What the Buddha realized is what "everybody" knows now: The body is not to blame, but rather attachment and clinging, which are defilements of the mind/heart. Insight brought Siddhartha to this realization. And that realization made him the Buddha.
"No," Siddhartha aware of their conversation said to them, "that won't be necessary. People think that I am fasting, and were I to be living on subtle deva nourishment, it would be deceiving them." But this encouraged Siddhartha to nourish his body with human food.
He came to understand that it was not by rejecting the world and such facts as the constraints of materiality (e.g., the need for nutrition) that one finds freedom. Instead, it is by practicing serenity-and-insight, Zen and Vipassana one can say. The first prepares the mind/heart through concentration (calm, collectedness, intensification, and focus). The other aims the laser singularity of consciousness on mindful contemplation of four things that lead to freedom here and now.
They lead the heart to realize nirvana and the complete end of suffering.
Realizing it and deciding to teach others the path of purification, the path to freedom, he walked to another forest in Sarnath, in a deer park outside of the famous ancient Indian city of Varanasi. There he instructed the first Five Disciples, who had formerly practiced austerities with him trying to reach liberation.
"Here in this Dharma (this Teaching), a meditator who has gone to the forest, or to the foot of a tree, or to an empty place, sits down cross legged, holding the back sustainably erect [not too stiff, not too lax], arousing mindfulness in front."
To gain concentration (samadhi) to the level of full-absorption one needs mindfulness, which simply means constant-bare-awareness, nonjudgmental attention, non-evaluative holding in consciousness. One avoids two extremes, rigidity and laxity, and balances in the blissful middle, awake but serene.
- "Household life is crowded, constricting, and dusty! A life gone forth is wide open. While living at home, it is not easy to carry out this noble life utterly perfect and pure as [the milky luminous lustre of a] polished conch shell... But suppose I cut off my hair and beard, don a saffron robe, and go forth from home into homelessness? What if I leave behind my fortune, small or large, leave behind my circle of family and friends, small or large? Then doing so out of verifiable-confidence (saddha) in this Teacher or this Teaching or these well-taught disciples, after past lives of accumulating the right conditions for attaining the expeditious state of a recluse in the Buddha's lineage, surely one has found the surest means of winning the stream that runs towards and merges with the deathless nirvana!"