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Disconnected in Bali: A Tale of Loss and Rediscovery


Phone underwater
Phone underwater

Sawaki Kodo Roshi, a 20th century Japanese Zen Master, once said: ‘Loss is gain and gain is loss’. Well, I lost my phone in Bali – and regained myself. 

Misconceptions of Connection in the Modern World

In the modern world, we think – or we practice thinking – that being connected is only internet-based.

We think because we’re texting, chatting, talking, posting that we are somehow more connected to the world than our natural way of being. I would beg to differ.

A Sudden Disconnection

When my wife asked me where my phone was, we were in a sushi restaurant in Canugu, Bali. I laughed and said ‘you know,

I have no idea’. She immediately started to stress, which created a great sense of urgency to protect my internet identity. She shutdown the phone ID and called AT&T to report the iPhone was missing. I knew right then I was not getting a new phone until I was back in the States.

The Unexpected Relief

For me, I was not in panic mode. I was completely calm and to be honest, had a sinful inner smile of delight in my soul. The truth be told, I have never really liked personal cellphones. I am a dinosaur. I am from the era of landline phones. Our family lived in a small house with one phone that hung on the wall that all five of us shared.

Reminiscing Pre-Digital Times

Growing up in my midwest small hometown, my folks never knew where I was going during the day. On any long, hot, summer day, I would be riding freely, almost randomly exploring on my green Schwinn bicycle. Some days heading out to a friends to play fast pitch baseball with no helmet. Or I would grab my fishing pole and bike to the river to practice not catching fish.

The Irony of Attachment

Yes, life existed before the great web of modern life. Not only did we exist, many of us still think we thrived in those old analog days. I will say, the moment my wife mentioned I was missing my phone, I had a feeling I had lost a limb. To me, it’s like the ghost limb effect I hear people feel after a tragic accident when they lose an extremity. For me, a phone has become as much as part of our body as an arm or a leg. The phone is always reminding you of its importance with the constant chirping of texts, news alerts, email notices and maybe even a phone call. It has become our fake appendage.

Embracing the Phone-less Days

My phone-less days in Bali were better. I felt more at ease. I was more integrated in my environment. I was more aware my surroundings. I was more present. I was more Zen by having less and doing less.

A Gain from Loss

For the next seven days, I was without a phone. The loss of the phone was a gain for me to organically practice mediation in a crash course moment-by-moment living. And because Bali was such a new experience, with different foods, stunning landscapes and unique culture, I become even more present than normal. I had to surrender to the now.

The Marvel of Raja Ampat

By the time I had reached The Arenui to explore the marvel of Raja Ampat, I was sleeping better, my blood pressure was lower, and I was more peaceful. Simply, I was in a better space to enjoy this world-renowned treasure of diving in Indonesia.

The Zen of Diving

I was practicing active mediation all day long on land. After all, scuba in its purest form is active mediation. Moving slowly, even floating in the big blue paying attention to your breath and noticing your body’s every movement, is yoga underwater. But, and this is a big but, in order to experience Zen diving, you cannot bring your iPhone case or even your video or camera gear to document your experience.

The Pure Joy of the Experience

That’s right, for all you Shutterfishes out there, every now and again dive without your production equipment and simply enjoy the process. Dive for the pure joy of diving, process over product. For Zen divers, the experience of diving is enough, especially when you are on The Arenui. There is no need to add more when what you have in front of you is beyond your imagination.


This article was originally published in Scuba Diver North America #14.

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Scuba Diver Magazine is a global publication serving all the major English speaking markets in print and digital format.
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