11/13/2013 09:46 am ET Updated Nov 14, 2013

Poet Mark Nepo Shares His Biggest Spiritual Lessons From Battling Cancer (VIDEO)

After three years, two cycles of cancer and an aggressive series of chemotherapy, poet Mark Nepo's body was weak and broken. Still, he says he could feel his spirit growing stronger, his perspective shifting and his heart opening wider. On "Super Soul Sunday," Nepo shares the biggest lessons he learned during his battle with cancer, explaining why openness and acceptance are the most important among them.

"One of the biggest lessons," Nepo says, "is that whatever situation we're in, we are challenged. If we think we're open, we need to double our efforts to be open and welcome everything because only the logic of the heart can put it all together."

Over the past year, Nepo says he's been practicing the teaching that "all things are true."

"Not that all things are right or that all things are fair or all things are just," he explains. "But all things are true, and only an open heart can start to make sense of how. Because that helps us when we keep choosing between right and wrong, we spend our energy sorting life rather than living it. It doesn't mean that there aren't things that are cruel or evil or hurt or unjust, but only from the wholeness of life can we see how the spirit in a body can navigate it."

Nepo, who is now in his 60s, also shares the most humbling thing he's learned. "We're asked to learn how to keep asking for what we need only to practice accepting what we're given," he says. "And that's a paradox. But what's so important about this, for me, is that asking for what we need doesn't always lead to getting what we need. Sometimes it does, and that's great. But the reward for asking for what we need is that we become intimate with our own nature. We learn who we are by standing in who we are."

"The reward for practicing accepting what we're given is we become intimate with everything that's not us," he continues. "We become intimate with the nature of life. And it's the rhythm between our own nature and the nature of life that allows us to find the thread we are -- the thread we are in the unseeable connections that hold everything together."

"Wow," Oprah says. "That's beautiful."

Oprah's conversation with Nepo continues on "Super Soul Sunday" this Sunday, Nov. 17 at 11 a.m. ET on OWN.



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