In his quest for awakening, according to the traditional account the Buddha tried and discarded various ancient Indian practices as being not in themselves conducive to awakening. Nevertheless, closer inspection shows that key elements of these practices became part of the Buddhist path, a transformation that involves mindfulness in one way or another.

In this way, fasting transforms into mindful eating, breath control into mindfulness of breathing, and a reformulation of an aspiration for annihilation of the self, apparently held by ancient Indian cultivators of the meditative sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception, comes to be conjoined to the cultivation of mindfulness of the body. These transformations shed light on the importance and adaptability of mindfulness in early Buddhist soteriology.