There is no good WiFi at the beach, but I promise you’ll find a better connection.
This sign at the Villa Coco hotel in Santa Catalina accurately sums up the internet situation in this remote, underdeveloped village on the Pacific coast of Panama.
Most places around the village offer access to decent, if slow, WiFi.
When the power goes out, it takes the WiFi with it. When the power is down for longer than an hour, it takes down the cellular network too.
The power goes out at least once a day.
Sometimes it’s down for just for a few minutes, other times for longer.
The Hotel Santa Catalina, where I’m staying, has its own generator. Often we don’t feel the effects of a power outage because the generator kicks in almost immediately. The way I know the power is out is that I can no longer connect to WiFi or cellular.
This is part of life here.
No Warning, No Control
Power outages come without warning. When we lose connection to internet or cellular, the time span is indefinite. Unlike the tides, which rise and retreat on a predictable schedule, the daily ebb and flow of the internet connection is completely unpredictable.
I’ve noticed how my response to this has changed over the time I’ve been here. In my first week here, while I was on retreat, I didn’t even notice the outage. The next two weeks, as I began to settle into a rhythm of play and relaxation mixed with work, I noticed it more.
Sometimes the outage comes just when I wanted to publish a blog post or share an image online.
An Invitation to Surrender
When the power goes out and takes the connection to the outside world with it, the only thing we can do is surrender.
Instead of reacting with frustration, I view it as a silent mindfulness bell: an invitation to put away my devices and rest my brain, which is still sensitive to screen time four years after sustaining a traumatic brain injury.
The disconnection shakes me out of my ADHD hyper-focus zone and forces me to get out of my chair. The time for working is over. Now is the time to rest, renew, and recharge.
It’s a forced Sabbath time.
Information Without the Internet
Earlier this week, the power was out for the entire day, well into the night. My entire waking day was without internet connection or cellular service.
Despite the lack of internet connection, I still managed to receive some vital information. It required me to look in different channels.
As I settled into my writing in the morning, I noticed how often I wanted to interrupt myself in my writing process to do “research” for a blog post. The inability to get online reminded me that the only research I needed was to look into my heart and into the well of my own experience.
Nothing more was necessary. My own experience is enough.
In the evening, I noticed how without the few street lamps — which typically give off only minimal light — even more stars were visible in the night sky.
Later, instead of retreating to my room or behind my screen, I met new people and engaged in stimulating, synchronous conversations.
Nurturing A Deeper Connection
These power outages force me to do what I came here to do: connect within myself, with nature, and with other people — the people who are here with me in this present moment, in same time and same place.
They have become my daily reminder to look for what I need within myself.
In the disconnection from the internet, and in the silent void left by the absence of Google and social media, I’m finding a different type of connection — with other people, with nature, and within my own heart.
These are the connections that matter most.