How does the title Dreaming Me suggest that the experiences of the author, Jan Willis, with Buddhism entailed contending with aired dimensions of her identity?
The author of Dreaming Me, Jan Willis, has always contended with a somewhat painful sense of her identity. When she was born, her skin was so light that people implied that she couldn't be her father's daughter, though she was. Her sense of alienation and her later participation in the Civil Rights Movement and the practice of non-violence drove her interest in Buddhism. When she visited Indian Buddhists, she felt truly accepted. She writes, "These gentle people actually practiced what the Buddha had taught, and so radiated compassion to all beings" (page 95).
She relates different dreams that she's had throughout her life at the beginning of each part of her book. In the first part, she dreams of a ferocious, bloody lion, and she writes, "In spite of my fear, I wanted to touch him" (page 4). In a sense, her writings and her studying and teaching of Buddhism are a way to touch this lion, this fear that she has about racism and her own self-identity. The tile of her book, Dreaming Me, connects to the idea that Willis must chase away her fears, or the lions, that cramp her sub-conscious. She says that she has dreamed of these lions since she first started doing research into her family in the southern U.S. These lions, or fears, include her fear of being rejected by her community for embracing Buddhism and being educated far from home.
In this book and in her life's study and teaching of Buddhism, she embarks on a journey to embrace the different parts of herself and her identity by exploring far-away lands like India and discovering more about herself, her family's history, and her family's Baptist religion. In the end, she can dream of herself and create a new identify for herself out of all these parts. She can, she writes, "make peace with them," referring to the lions of her dreams (page 314).