There are several ways to gain a greater understanding, experience, and perception of the elements. One is through paying attention to their characteristics or attributes in the physical world, which includes people: their minds, attitudes, and their approaches to life. This would be the study of the outer characteristics of manifestation. It requires some observation.
Another way is through concentration upon a symbol. You can use the square and later the cube. The four corners of the square represent the four elements. Ether is in the center. Beginning with the upper left is air, which can be colored blue. Then, clockwise to the upper right is fire, which can be colored red; then lower right, water, which is green; and earth in the bottom left, which is a gold or yellow which sometimes has a tiny bit of brown. In the center is ether, which is colored gray. By concentration, and then further meditation and contemplation, their qualities can unfold. Later one can extend the square into the cube.
(The word contemplation is used here as a deepening of meditation toward direct experience with the objects, rather than perception of it is something apart. This use of the the word is different than how it used by some others. I do not quibble with other uses, but point out how I use it. You can read more about definitions used here. You may also want to read an approach to sitting.)
Another way to experience the elements is through a series of meditations which uses various breaths. This can be done with or without movement. The breaths can also be used when working with the square symbol, above. When done sitting, the attention is placed upon the element to consider and the corresponding breath is used. Start with the most dense breath and progress to the least dense. Thus, earth, water, fire, air, and ether. The breaths for these purposes follow.
Air: Both nostrils or alternating nostrils. Very light, shallow, high breath.
Fire: Strong, sharp inhalation in the right nostril. A natural exhalation.
Water: Inhalation and exhalation in the left nostril. The exhalation is stronger and longer than the inhalation. Not sharp. It is fluid.
Earth: Both nostrils inhale and exhale. Has more substance and body than air. Is lower and more full, deeper.
Ether: A refined breath. It can be combined with any of the other elements.
With all the breaths, when one nostril is indicated, it is helpful to cover the other one to help "prime the pump". After a few breaths done in this manner, all you need do is concentrate on that nostril, and the emphasis will be there.
Color can also be associated with the breaths. Attention can be placed to gain a perception of the qualities of the elements according to the level one is on, or corresponding stages.
There is a series of moving meditations to experience the element. Please see the page on Walks of the Elements.
There is also a series of purification practices based upon the elements. There are two writings on these practices. Please read the first purification of the elements page. Follow that by the second writing (by another person). These writings go into depth on the practices. The breaths used with them are somewhat different than those used in the walks.
All these concentrations and practices can be enhanced on some levels by doing them physically near their corresponding forms. Thus earth, outdoors, especially standing barefoot; water next to a stream; fire, near a fire or feeling the heat of the sun; air, on a hill or in a place with the wind blowing.