when you do the initial back up, does that mean taking all of the information from the external to the mac or from the mac to the external?
Initial backup (and all subsequent backups) will copy data from your computer to the external disk designated as the Time Machine disk.
Is that what you are after?
how do i get the information off of the time machine disk to the computer?
It depends. Are you trying to restore a file, or what? Just open the folder where the current file is/was, Enter time machine (it should be in the menubar), go back to the time of interest, select the file, press "restore".
no im setting up my mac and i want everything from my old mac that i used time machine to back up to go on my new one
I think you want to use Migration Assistant, in your Utilities folder to run the transfer of data from your Time Machine disk to your new computer.
See "Time Machine or other disk migration" in http://support.apple.com/kb/ht4889 for detailed instructions.
Retrieving data ...