The Purpose of the Pause

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Hello everyone. This is my very first post on the price of money. I want to thank Kevin and his entire team for inviting me to participate in this powerful and essential program.

The name of my segment is called achieving your true potential. Well, that is a lot to take in. So many things fall into identifying your true potential and achieving it. So, each month, I will break this down chunk by chunk.

I would think I would begin with the beauty and the power of taking a pause. Yes, stopping to access all of the ups and downs in life today and in the past. I know you say you don’t have time for that. That is what we believe, but you must do it. Let me tell you a personal story about when I discovered the miracle of pause.

On Christmas Day 2015, I took my usual 2-mile walk and felt my bra tightening. I continued walking, but I had to sit and rest for the first time. It continued to be too tight even after I took it off — a symptom of a woman’s heart attack that I ignored, like so many other women. While sitting in a movie theater that afternoon, my heart races wildly. Who knew I would be that upset about Hans Solo’s death? As I attempted to leave the theatre, I lost consciousness and fell to the floor. A trip to the hospital and overnight stay revealed nothing, but I was urged to see my primary care doctor. After four days of testing, the doctors discovered –wait for it– I was born without a right coronary artery.


I have lived for six decades without the artery that takes blood from your heart to the rest of your body. Doctors said I should have died by the age of 5. According to the Centers for Disease Control, my condition is called Coronary Atresia. It is a congenital heart problem where the valve controlling blood flow from the heart to the lungs doesn’t form or is unattached from the heart.

In babies with this defect, blood has trouble flowing to the lungs to pick up oxygen for the body. The research is focused on babies because rarely does anyone with this condition make it to adulthood. What is so unique about my situation is,
I trained for a marathon. I was the Zumba Queen of the YMCA, and I practice Vinyasa (high energy flow) yoga twice a week…Well, until the surgery.

Looking back after I received the diagnosis, I recall how often I ran out of breath long before the rest of the class, and my hands were cold most of the year.
I wore gloves in June. When the doctors told me, I was in sheer disbelief.

I had plans at the end of the week.

My daughter was heading to college 3,000 miles away, and I wanted to go.
I wanted to attend the parent’s orientation. I had worked so hard. I had weathered her teen years. I deserved parents’ orientation. In such disbelief, I stopped the cardiologist in mid-sentence to ask, “What is open-heart surgery?” I knew he was NOT talking about cutting me open like a chicken in a butcher shop.

There had to be some kind of orthoscopic open-heart surgery.

No, he and his team were going to cut open my chest. He went on to explain the urgency to avoid a massive heart attack. I did not hear another word. When he finished talking, I blurted out, “I’m sorry, but I am going to Los Angeles on Friday. The surgery will have to wait”. He was so stunned at my response that he had to smile. I began the first of a series of hysterical crying fits.

The doctor did release me from the hospital to go to the parent’s orientation with the promise I would saunter, carry nothing, and take the nitroglycerin pills with me. What is he talking about? Well, okay.


In the hotel bathroom in Los Angeles, I took pictures of my chest pre-butcher shop. As morbid as it sounds, I wanted the memory. I also remember riding in the old lady’s cart at Target as my daughter shopped for school supplies.
Oh well.

After returning from the parent’s orientation, I surrendered to open-heart surgery to find my right coronary artery. She was unattached in there, doing nothing.
She was just lying in my Aorta — the large main artery of the body that supplies oxygenated blood to the circulatory system. My right coronary artery was just hanging out in there as if she were waiting for someone to deliver a margarita.


The crippling pain from the surgery and the uneven recovery were terrible. Then, there were the constant media warnings about opioid addiction. I dare anyone to have open heart surgery and address the pain with Tylenol.

But the absolute horror was always wondering why this was happening to me. I live a healthy life. I eat well. I exercise, but despite those efforts, a congenital disorder caused me to need open heart surgery! Then, one day, a voice said, you are asking the wrong question. The real question is, what is the purpose of the pause?

What is the purpose of this pause? How do I find that answer? I dug out every holy book in my house…the Bible, the Qur’an, and the Bhagavad Gita. I reread The Alchemist again and listened to Neil Donald Walsh recite his book Conversations with God on YouTube. And when I was not sleeping or reading
I was stuck alone in the silence, which brought hours of life review and uncontrollable tears.


In the pause, I found a new relationship with God — again. A living, breathing, ever-present Being sitting inside my body, just like my artery, hoping for discovery. I’ve been a spiritual seeker my entire life, but I was always looking outside of myself. I didn’t realize God was just hanging out inside me, waiting for me to serve the margaritas.


My life has always been good, even through a divorce and other complications. It’s always still very good. The pause gave me a moment to sort my life. I got to examine what I was doing by habit and what I wanted to do. I wanted a new direction. I planned it out in the silence of the pause. Despite how it appears, I found an assurance that everything is in Divine right order. You can get the same pause and discover a new purpose or expand the one you have by scheduling ‘sacred rest’ a couple of times a week. I call it ‘sacred’ because it is on your calendar as a mandatory event in life. Maybe it’s 30 minutes, an hour, or an afternoon.


I found absolute joy during the pause. It is a joy that is not connected to achievement,
nor purchased in a mall. It is still. It is a whisper. I don’t wish open heart surgery on anybody. It is an awful, traumatic experience. I could have spent the nine months feeling sorry for myself, but instead, I spent the time looking for rebirth, a new focus.

So, after my experience with open-heart surgery, I say laughingly, Open Heart Surgery for Everyone!



Joia Jefferson Nuri has a keen intuition for helping women of color executives achieve their goals. Her training as a coach in executive Leadership and public speaking has sharpened her ability to understand and support clients clarify their objectives. Joia helps her clients build a toolkit to battle their destructive inner critic, allowing them to rise from their zone of excellence to their zone of genius. Trained in the rubric of positive psychology, her techniques put clients in touch with their inner critic so they can quiet it. As a leadership coach, her ultimate goal is to help clients understand their worth, maximize their abilities, and live the lives they see for themselves. Joia’s signature executive team-building and inner critic workshops assist companies, social change groups, and women’s organizations to maximize their Leadership while aligning their values and practices.

Before coaching, she was a human rights communication strategist for Harry Belafonte and Danny Glover, TransAfrica, The Institute for Policy Studies, and Truly Living Well Center for Urban Agriculture. As a communication strategist, she testified before Congress on Haiti Relief and co-wrote Congressional Testimony for Danny Glover. Joia Nuri has co-written, edited, and coached 14 TEDx Talks, including one for herself. She was honored to be invited to deliver the keynote address in Vienna, Austria, before the 53 nations of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Her communications career at NBC News was one of the first women hired as a technician. Her move to CBS News made her the first Black woman to serve as Technical Director of the CBS Evening News and Face The Nation. She also worked as a senior producer at NPR, PBS, and C-SPAN.

Her public speaking training began with her father, a classical baritone. Later, her training continued with Shakespearean actress Naomi Jacobson. Joia has performed voiceovers for documentaries on Civil Rights icon John Lewis, ballet dancer Misty Copeland, filmmaker Ava Duverney, and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.

Joia Nuri’s early career was in network newsrooms, where she was the first Black woman to be Technical Director of the CBS Evening News and Face the Nation. She also worked as a senior producer at PBS, NPR, and C-Span.She applies her experience, intuition, and training to help each client achieve true Leadership. Today, she is coaching government, education, corporations, and philanthropy leaders.

Awards & Accomplishments:

  • Emmy Award, WRC-TV
  • Corporation for Public Broadcasting Award for Programming Excellence
  • Spirit Award, Pacifica Radio Network
  • Judge for the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Human Rights Awards
  • Delivered Keynote Address before the OSCE in Vienna, Austria
  • TEDx Talk, Wilmington
  • Event Strategist, Obama Inaugural Galas, 2009 & 2013

Twitter/X: @joianuripcc


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